Friday, October 31, 2003

Rice Blames Terror on Clinton 

In a never ending justification for never ending war, Republican National Security Advisor Condileeza Rice blamed President Clinton for not paying attention to signs that war had been declared on America during his term in office. (She didn't mention the fact that when the Marine barracks in Beirut was bombed Reagan pulled out troops out of Lebanon and that emboldened the Islamic factions that turned Beirut into a shit hole. That's understandable. I mean, he was a Republican.)

There is a saying that when the only tool you have is a hammer, then every problem looks like a nail. When you're a neo-con, the answer to every challenge is to declare war on every problem.

I thnk her problem is confusing low level sustained terror attacks with set piece warfare. I guess you could call terrorism war, but the nomenclature just confuses the issue. It's more of a culture war than an actual war. In World War II, pretty much every German, Japanese and Italian national was at war with everyone else. But terrorism is a hidden war, meant to terrorise people. There is no official declaration of war on the on the part of terrorists. Even if there were, it wouldn't change the nature of it.

The real question that needs to be asked is : does declaring war on terrorism really stop terrorism? We have our whole army in Iraq and it doesn't seem to have stopped terrorism around the world one bit. There are Islamic fundamentalists blowing up train stations and theatres and department stores around the world with impunity despite the armies of the United States, Israel and Russia.

This is not a war of words. It's a war of ideas. One, I believe that will never truly be settled with bombs and missiles and fallout.

Thursday, October 30, 2003

Anti Science, Right Wing Capitalists Sue to censor textbooks that dare to criticize development. 

Isn’t this why our kids are so dumb and misinformed to begin with? And now the right wing isn’t just suing over evolution, now they’re suing textbook scholars over any criticism of industry.

Texas is the home of stupidity. And the headquarters is The Eagle Forum.

The whole text.

A textbook author and two Dallas high school students sued several current and former members of the State Board of Education Thursday, claiming the officials violated the First Amendment by rejecting an environmental science textbook in 2001.
The class-action lawsuit, filed in a federal court in Dallas, argues that the board members rejected the textbook because they didn't agree with the author's viewpoints and wanted to suppress them, which the plaintiffs say was a violation of constitutional free speech protections.
At least one board member dismissed the lawsuit as "frivolous" and "stupid" and said the book, "Environmental Science: Creating a Sustainable Future," was rejected because it contained factual errors.
The book's author, Daniel Chiras, a professor of environmental science at several colleges and universities in Colorado, said his book contained no errors and followed curriculum. He said the book is used by colleges such as Baylor University, was recommended by the Texas' Commissioner of Education and received high marks from the Science Teachers Association of Texas.
Chiras argues that board members rejected the book solely because of protests by conservative groups that labeled it anti-Christian, anti-free enterprise and anti-American. Chiras denied the claims. He said that while the book does argue that America is not on a sustainable environmental course, it provides a healthy debate on issues from real estate development to nuclear energy.
"This is really a progressive book, not a subversive book as people would have you believe," Chiras said at a news conference. "It is no more un-American than when Congress or the state legislature sits down to debate an issue and discuss facts and figures that put us in a bad light.
"We can't reach a deep understanding and solutions by ducking the truth." Chiras and his attorneys, with the Washington D.C.-based public interest law firm Trial Lawyers for Public Justice, say the case has far reaching effects because Texas' education board serves as a "gatekeeper" for textbook adoption across the country.
Texas is the nation's second largest buyer of textbooks, and books sold in the state are often marketed by publishers nationwide.
"They really are setting the tone for education across the United States," Chiras said. "It's getting out of control. I feel like we need to reign these people in and send a strong message that they need to stick to their mandate."
State law allows board members to reject only books that are poorly made, contain factual errors or fail to follow state curriculum.
David Bradley, one of the board members being sued, said the case has nothing to do with free speech.
He said the board rejected the textbook because it was filled with errors. He remembers an aerial photo of a housing development that contained a caption explaining how development causes great harm to the earth. He recalled another example where a dam in Asia was described as a destructive development that destroys vegetation and natural habitat.
"They portrayed the American economy in a negative light and I only saw things as being in a positive light," said Bradley, a real estate developer in Beaumont. "This will never make it to trial and the attorney general will discredit their case, I'm confident."
The lawsuit seeks a court order declaring the rejection of the book unconstitutional and requiring the book be added to the list of state-approved texts.
"We now determine textbooks by lawsuit?" Bradley asked. "We have representative government, or did they just want the courts to pick textbooks for classrooms?"
Chiras also is suing several board members individually and seeking damages from lost sales he says were caused by their censorship.
Julia McLouth, 17, and Lillian Pollak, 18, seniors at the Talented and Gifted Magnet High School in Dallas, said they represent thousands of Texas students who are harmed by the board's alleged censorship of school books.
"Students' views are being compromised by state officials and their biased political, religious and economic viewpoints," Pollak said. "Students should be able to make their own choices. The censorship of this book doesn't permit them to do that."
Other board members being sued are board Chairwoman Geraldine Miller, Don McLeroy, Cynthia Thornton and former member Grace Shore.

The Economy Train Picks Up More Steam 

The Commerce Department today released GDP numbers for the third quarter of the year, and all I can say is wow. An annualized growth rate of 7.2%, the highest in almost twenty years.

Third Quarter GDP Growth Highest Since 1984

Here's hoping that the BLS' release of October unemployment on November 7th coincides with this rosy picture.

Next Year in New York. 

If you think there had to be security in Asia for Bush to travel, wait until you see the Republican national Convention in New York.

Author Ted Rall warns that the protests will make the pre-war antiwar protests look like Boy Scouts.

Have an excerpt and a link.

linked text

"Next year in New York" is already the rallying cry of more than 150 groups planning to protest Bush's coronation. United for Peace and Justice, which organized some of the biggest demonstrations against the invasion of Iraq, has applied for a 250,000-person permit to march past Madison Square Garden, where the convention is being held, on the event's first full day.

Everyone from radical anarchists to moderate environmentalists expects the NYC/GOP ideological collision to spark the biggest American protest march since the end of the Vietnam War. Families of 9/11 victims, predominantly Democratic like the oasis of ideological sanity they live in, are so incensed at reports that the convention was timed to allow Bush to lay the Freedom Tower cornerstone at the World Trade Center site that many plan to join the protest. "Keep your hands off Ground Zero," Rita Lasar, head of a 9/11 victims group, warns Republicans. "Do not make a political football out of this."

I lived in New York for a year. I don't particularly want to be there unless I am in a fine hotel and on an expense account. But I should as hell wouldn't want to be am RNC member there next year. It should be quite a spectacle.

Military families grow angry with state of Iraq war 

Here's the whole article and yet another problem that even Bushco won't be able to suppress for long. Once you add all this up, plus the casualties, and the number of military personnel who will leave the military once their tour is up, there will be no doubt that..to quote Premier Putin...this was a blunder.

Chicago Tribune

DENVER - (KRT) - They are angry and disillusioned, frustrated and full of doubt. This war is not going the way they hoped it would.

They are wives and husbands of the 129th Army Reserves Combat Transportation Company, stationed in Kansas, and they are terrified for spouses who are conducting missions in Iraq.

A month ago, these family members launched a "bring our soldiers home" petition drive when, with no advance notice, the 129th Company's tour of duty was extended.

Today, after a string of recent suicide bombings in Iraq, they stand with a growing number of military families who are convinced that the war is going awry and who think the American public isn't getting a straight story on the conflict.

Cherie Block, 29, could barely contain herself while watching President Bush's news conference Tuesday from her home in Sac City, Iowa, especially when he insisted the vast majority of Iraqis are with Americans, not against them.

"Look at everything that's going on there this week," Block said, "And (Bush) still has this perfect picture in his head that they want us there. To me, they're already against us."

"Either he doesn't really understand what's going on, or he's not telling it the way it really is," said Block, whose husband Wallace is a sergeant with the 129th Company.

Around the country other military families are increasingly voicing concerns over the war, some through organizations such as Military Families Speak Out, a Massachusetts group that claims support from about 1,000 families nationwide. Some marched in protests against the war in Washington, D.C., last weekend.

While many of these families are adamantly anti-war, others embrace the administration's rationale for going to war in Iraq, while criticizing its conduct in the post-war period.

Among them is Trisha Leonard, 27, of De Soto, Kan., who declined to name her husband, a captain in the 129th Company Army Reserves. "I think taking out Saddam's regime was a good move. But there is no post-war plan or exit strategy. It's a mess."

To be sure, the vast majority of military families support the war, at least in public. They don't want their wives and husbands, sons or daughters to return home to a country that has adopted a negative view of the conflict, like that faced by soldiers who came home from Vietnam.

Overwhelmingly, families are against a massive pullout of troops that would leave Iraq destabilized and vulnerable. The U.S. has to finish what it has begun, or risk an even greater surge of terrorism, they believe.

But reservists like those in the 129th Company, which operates huge trucks that haul tanks and other heavy equipment into Iraq, are in an especially tough position. Planning for their service in the Iraq war has been particularly chaotic, families charge, insisting that the military has given them inadequate information and assistance.

Initially, most of the 129th Company reservists believed their tour of duty would be three to six months. Then they were told it would be a year from the time they arrived in Iraq, not including the three months they spent prior to be deployed.

Finally, last month, they were told the 270-member 129th Company might not come home before 2005. That's when Rachel Trueblood, 42, of Lees Summit, Mo., a mother of three whose husband Rony is a staff sergeant with the company, went from "sucking it up," as she puts it, to getting mad.

Her bottom line: no National Guard or reservist should be deployed for more than 12 months at a time. After e-mailing other families in the company, Trueblood mounted a petition drive last month that has already gathered almost 13,000 signatures.

"Once-proud Army Reserve families are being disillusioned by the decision to keep reservists beyond their original orders," the petition reads. "We ask for your help in getting our loved ones home by the end of their 12-month tour of active duty."

As for the war, though her husband supports it, Trueblood has serious doubts. "We've committed ourselves to something that's bigger than any of us ever bargained for," she said. "My feeling is, we can't leave, but this might be a cause we'll never win. We're trying to lead something that should have been led from the inside (of Iraq)."

Every time Bush gets up and says the U.S. won't back down until it wins the war against terrorism, as he did Tuesday, Trueblood wonders "How? We're already stretched to the absolute limit. Where are you going to lead us next, into Iran or Syria?"

For Jodie Holm, 38, faith is the answer to the nagging questions she tries to keep at bay as violence in Iraq escalates. Every day, she prays her husband Jeff, a sergeant with the 129th Company, will return home safely, and tries not to imagine how she would survive if he didn't. Her pride in his service is mingled with anxiety about his welfare and a feeling of constantly being on edge.

"If it wasn't for God, I'd be a basket case right now. … I'm so scared," said Holm from her home in Council Bluffs, Iowa, breaking into tears over the phone. "More and more, it seems the Iraqi people don't want us there. My husband says don't worry, but I can't help myself. It's the not knowing what is going to happen next that's killing me."


© 2003, Chicago Tribune.

The SpinKing spins himself into a...well...an outright lie. 

Bush tried to distance himself from the Mission Accomplished banner. Infact he tried to blame it on the ship's command crew. The fact is, his communications director confirmed, everything from the banner to the angle of carrier to delaying its doccking one whole day for the photo op was nothing morer than the SpinKing's status quo.

Excerpt from USA Today:

"I received a phone call from the ship. They asked if they could have something that recognized that they had accomplished their mission. We agreed and helped develop a banner that reflected that," he said.

The White House communications office, well-known for the care it takes with the backdrops at Bush's speeches, created the "Mission Accomplished" banner in the same style as banners the president uses in other appearances, including one in Canton, Ohio, just a week before the carrier speech. That banner, with the same typeface and soft, brush-stroked American flag in the background, read: "Jobs and Growth."

Ahnold and the White House 

OK. Maybe it's just me. But if you were the newly elected Governor of Kaaliiforneeea, and the state was...well..on fire, wouldn't you survey the area and cancel the trip to the Capitol?

Christ I can't help but think that if it were a Democrat touring while the state was burning, it would be all news.

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

White House is Starting to Sweat Plamegate. 

Well, The Republican National Committee is being looked at by the FBI. Well….duh!!! The Republicans say this is all political right? Just Democrats acting desperately because they have no agenda. Right?

The Justice Department and FBI have broadened their criminal investigation of who leaked the identity of CIA officer Valerie Plame to include subsequent Bush administration efforts to discredit her and her diplomat husband, according to two administration officials familiar with the probe.

Of particular interest, the two sources said, were contacts between White House officials and the Republican National Committee during the burgeoning scandal. Probers are interested in how the Bush administration and party officials strategized to stymie negative press and to counter public criticism by former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV of the leak of his wife's status as a CIA officer.

Well, who looks desperate now?

Which they did. "Joe Wilson is not an apolitical person himself," RNC chairman Ed Gillespie, for example, said in a statement. "He's . . . a supporter of John Kerry's campaign, a maxed-out contributor, and wants to endorse him given the opportunity. He has spoken to a Win Without War rally, one of the most radical anti-Bush groups out there."

Have a link

linked text

If at first you don’t succeed, well, then give up. 

The Bush administration cannot find the Weapons of Mass Delusions. And we are having the shit bombed out of us. Today, an M1 Abrams main battle tank was destroyed by the Iraqi resistance. So, might as well divert scarce resources from that search and try to find the bombers. This is just another way od admitting that the White House was wrong and they did not have these weapons in the forms of amounts that we claimed.

"There are competing demands for the services of a finite number of individuals," a senior American official said. "Obviously, you don't want to fail to support the security needs in Baghdad, but on the other hand you don't want to fail to support the weapons hunt.”….At the White House, President Bush said that the military's strategy in Iraq — to act quickly on fresh intelligence to kill or capture guerrillas — would remain the same, but on-the-ground tactics would shift to combat an elusive and adapting foe.

"We're constantly looking at the enemy and adjusting," Mr. Bush said without disclosing details.

Yeah? Well so is he numbnuts. Only you’re not paying the price. Some kid who believes in America is.

Where are the WMDs?

Columbine Shootings Blamed On Evolution. 

More proof that Right wing Christians have not yet evolved from lower forms of life, we now have a father of one of the Columbine victims blaming the science of biology for the cause of the shootings.

(Hat tip to Texas Freedom Network.)

"If children are taught that they came from slime, that they evolved from a lower form of life, and that there's no future after death, then their views of life are affected by that."

--Darrell Scott, father of a victim of the Columbine High School shootings, explaining why he believes the teaching of evolution leads to tragedies like the one that killed his daughter. Mr. Scott has weighed in on the Texas textbook adoption process.

linked text

I think it’s fair to say that parenting, and the terrible social dynamic that pressures kids in schools had nothing to do with the shooting. Nor did violence in the media or the availability of dozens of weapons.

No. It was evolution.

Tell you what. This asshole needs to evolve.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Selective Use of Outrage. 

Every once in a while a troll will come in and make the point that we knocked off a horrible dictator and that in itself justified the invasion of Iraq. Paul Krugman makes the point that these same people make selective use of moral outrage. From this morning’s New York Times.

Yet that moral punctiliousness is curiously selective. Last year the Bush administration, in return for a military base in Uzbekistan, gave $500 million to a government that, according to the State Department, uses torture "as a routine investigation technique," and whose president has killed opponents with boiling water. The moral clarity police were notably quiet.

To help make this point, I went into my library of newspaper clippings and books and magazine articles and put together this list of countries that torture people on a daily basis.

Albania, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus, Belgium, Benin, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Chad, Chile, Colombia, Congo (Democratic Republic of), Côte d'Ivoire, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, Ethiopia, Finland, Georgia, Ghana, Greece, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Iran, Ireland, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Malawi, Mali, Mauritius, Mexico, Moldova (Republic of), Monaco, Mongolia, Morocco, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Palestine, Panama, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Romania, Russia, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Togo, Turkey, Uganda, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States of America, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Yemen (Republic of), Yugoslavia (Federal Republic of), and Zimbabwe.

This is also a list of countries that the US does business with on a daily basis. Finally, it is a list of countries you will never hear mentioned on Faux News. Why is that? Because it isn’t news. It’s paid propaganda. Faux news is run by morally bankrupt paid political operative right wing hacks.

Wow, I actually agree with David Brooks on something. 

Brooks in the New York Times lambasts the Air Force/ Boeing tanker lease deal as being more expensive to tax payers than just buying tanker soutright and he see the Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert trying to ram it through.

It’s just more Bushco corruption.

iBut the content of the legislation is as pure as the driven snow, compared with the way it has been pushed through Washington. The chief Air Force official pushing the deal was Darleen Druyun. As The Washington Post reported yesterday, Druyun has recently left the Air Force and gone to work for Boeing. She sold her $692,000 northern Virginia home to a Boeing lawyer. Her daughter works for Boeing. None of this may be illegal or even wrong, but is this what makes you proud to be an American?

Well Mr. Brooks, welcome to the world of Republican politics where money and power are more important than anything. I wonder why you haven’t written a column about Cheney and Halliburton and Bechtel.

More broadly, this Republican majority is beginning to lose the idealism of youth and settle for the spoils of middle age. John Kasich used to rail against corporate welfare. Has that fire burned out entirely?

If this deal goes through, it will be a sign that all those fine young crusaders who campaign as fearless fighters against the ways of Washington are slowly but corrosively turning into the sort of creatures they despise.

It almost makes one miss Newt Gingrich.


Monday, October 27, 2003

Are Western Fires Terrorism? 

are western fires terrorism?

The contents of the June 25 memo from the FBI's Denver office were reported Friday by The Arizona Republic. Davis declined to share a copy of the memo and an FBI spokeswoman in Denver didn't immediately return a telephone call.

The Republic reported that the detainee, who was not identified, said the plan involved three or four people setting wildfires using timed devices in Colorado, Montana, Utah and Wyoming that would detonate in forests and grasslands after the operatives had left the country.

There but not for the grace of God…. 

And here you have it, More compassionate conservatism. One of the president’s policy advisors letting us know that a poor child in Africa is not as important to God as Bush himself.

Have an excerpt and a link and drink

"To put it simply, it's a fairly radical belief that a child in an African
village whose parents are dying of AIDS has the same importance before God
as the president of the United States"

-- Michael Gerson, chief speechwriter for President Bush and an important
White House policy adviser who is a born-again Christian, explaining the
president's view on worldwide human rights issues.

linked text

Sunday, October 26, 2003

Limbaugh…Bennett…now Matthews. 

Houston Police have announced that they are investigating an a ledged molestation charge on Jon Matthews, right wing nutcase Limbaugh wanna be.

Why am I delighting in this? Because pulling hate mongering Clear Channel DJs off the air helps America. And because like Limbaugh and Bill Bennett, it's just more right wing hypocrisy exposed.

Conservative talk show host investigated for molestation

The Sugar Land Police Department would not talk about this case on camera, but they do say on the record that they're investigating Matthews after an allegation of indecency with a child. They are, however, reluctant to release any specifics.

Ou est les WMDs? 

An extensive article n the Washington Post discusses the missing Weapons of Mass Distraction. Have a link and an excerpt. If you don’t have time for the whole article, the excerpt is it in a nutshell.

linked text

The investigation to date, Meekin said, suggests that Iraqi efforts to obtain dangerous technology since 1991 met with modest success at best.

"By and large, our judgment is that sanctions have been pretty good, or the sanctions effort, to prevent the import of components," he said. In the realm of nuclear proliferation, he said, "I guess there's more fertile ground in North Korea or Iran."

Selling Iraq to the Highest Bidders. 

Canadian columnist Linda McQuaig has the best idea for how to handle Iraq. Instead of keeping it for the oil, and selling it to American investors for companies that have an inside track with Bush and his cronies, give the fucking country back now.

Well, if divvying up Iraq and selling it to Dynacorp and Halliburton and Bechtel and Kellog Brown and Root bothers you, keep in mind, Bushco is doing the same to America’s great outdoors by removing hundreds of millions of wild acres from protected lists and allowing Bush cronies and others to develop them.

Wake up America. Have an excerpt and a link.

Once we strip away the now-debunked U.S. justifications for entering Iraq, what we're left with is an old-fashioned invasion of a foreign country.

Washington now insists it was just liberating the Iraqi people, but this doesn't explain why — as an occupying power — it went ahead last month and launched a massive privatization of the Iraqi economy, rather than leaving this huge political decision to the Iraqi people, once they're given the right to vote (whenever that will be). Why was it so urgent to open up Iraq to foreign ownership — before the lights are even working and the water running?….

…..But even a superficial analysis reveals that one common cause of "terrorism" is having one's land occupied by a foreign power.

That makes people angry; you could say it makes them crazy with anger. (If the U.S. were occupied by a foreign power, could we count on Americans to respond in ways that were measured, moderate and in keeping with the law?)

One of the biggest complaints of Osama bin Laden was the presence of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia. Interestingly, the U.S. has now withdrawn those troops — a smart move, but one that unfortunately was offset by the arrival of many more U.S. troops in neighbouring Iraq.

By invading and occupying Iraq, the U.S. has created a whole new hotbed of "terrorism." The anger of Iraqis used to be directed against Saddam Hussein, but is now directed against U.S. forces, which experience an average of 25 attacks there a day. In what sense can that be seen as progress in the U.S. "war against terror?"

Yet Rumsfeld, in addition to his dreams of a big new bureaucracy, seems to be proposing more of the same, perhaps ratcheted up to a bolder level. But if Washington simply kills more terrorists or kills them faster, won't more terrorists just appear to replace the dead ones?

The best idea I've heard for tackling "terrorism" in Iraq is noticeably absent from the Rumsfeld memo: Hand Iraq over to the Iraqis. Now.

linked text

Saturday, October 25, 2003

David Brooks 

Recently, you might have noticed that the New York Times invited David Brooks, an editor of the Weekly Standard, to become a columnist for the New York Times. Now when I want to hear someone attack Democrats, I don't just have to watch Faux News. Now when I want a sphincter slamming right wing narrow minded opinion on art, homosexuality or civil rights, or an attack on anything I have ever valued, I can just open up the New York Times.

Thanks NYT. Thanks for slowly becoming another fair and balanced news outlet.

Friday, October 24, 2003

GI dead vs inner city dead. 

I had dinner the other night with an old friend and his right wing nutcase buddy. When I mentioned the death rate of GIs in Iraq, his wingnut friend reminded me that made it less than the daily homicide rate of Detriot.

Yes, a typical Fox News quotation.

So I did a little research and found out the truth.

So get a calculator, go to this cite and do a little math.

I chose 4 cities of different sizes and varied rates of homicide: Oakland, St Louis, Detroit and Boston.

The homicide rate in Detroit is 1 dead every day and a half. Roughly .83 a day.

The Homicide rate in Boston is one dead every week. Roughly .17 a day.

The homicide rate in Oakland is one dead every four days. Roughly .23 day.

The homicide rate in St. Louis is one dead every four days. Roughly .23 a day.

In Iraq, every three days, 4 kids are dead are 27 are wounded. Roughly. 1.31 a day.

So, Fox news, and all the wingnuts are wrong.

linked text

Rummy's memo- my interpretation 

Now let’s talk about Rumsfeld’s Memo.

Why did a man who simply refused to even entertain the slightest negative comment about the war in Iraq suddenly leak a memo about the war? Because just last week, the control of the theatre was taken out of his hands. He was dissed. And now that Condi Rice is in charge, he is dissing back.

My prediction, whatever happens in the next election, Rummy will be gone.

Bush the SpinKing meets people who don't buy his bullshit 

Bush and Ashcroft generally do not meet the public. They meet with true believers and stand in front of propaganda lines, many of then made in Tawain. Here’s what happens when he can’t control everything.

linked text

For a president who typically speaks to controlled crowds of Republican supporters at home and, when abroad, is shielded from protesters, the two Green party senators who stood up and barracked Mr Bush made for one of his few head-on confrontations with public criticism….Outside the parliament building, closed to the public for the first time in its history, was a crowd of demonstrators which the Australian police estimated at about 5,000.

If that doesn’t say how Bush controls his press, here’s another way to look at it who’s in charge in the spinningest White House ever. From Senator Joe Biden.

"Like with a horse, Powell is always able to lead Bush to the water. But just as he is about to put his head down, Cheney up in the saddle says, 'Un-uh', and yanks up the reins before Bush can drink the water. That's my image of how it goes," Biden said. That is also the image which is gaining currency in power circles in Washington. When it comes to foreign policy, Cheney is increasingly seen as holding the reins….. The most stunning example was disclosed in a recent Washington Post article that assessed Condoleezza Rice's performance as national security adviser. The authors reported that Bush had ordered cabinet officials not to give any preferential treatment to Ahmed Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress (INC) as US forces moved into Iraq in the spring. Imagine the shock felt by the State Department when, shortly after Bush gave the order, the Pentagon flew Chalabi and 600 of his armed followers into southern Iraq in early April "with the approval of the vice president"…. Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Richard Lugar and Biden, the committee's ranking Democrat, explicitly mentioned Cheney in what amounted to a bipartisan appeal on NBC's "Meet the Press" television program on October 12 for Bush to assert his control over foreign policy.
Biden said, "I would say, 'Mr President, take charge. Take charge - let your secretary of defense, state, and your vice president know this is my policy, any one of you that divert from the policy is off the team'."
Lugar, a staunch, albeit moderate Republican, said he agreed with Biden, adding, "The president has to be president. That means the president over the vice president and over these secretaries."

Whew. Sometimes the lockstep liars aren’t always lockstep.

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Healing the Healing Iraq website 

I browsed the site Healing Iraq. It made mention of the fact that things are better than the news is reporting and that the number of attacks is down.

Apparently Rumsfeld and Commander Sanchez disagree.

Today Rumsfeld admitted there were "mixed results" and that we were in for a 'long hard slog'.

Then, our Commander in the field said that in fact the attacks are up to 20-25 attacks a day, up from 15-20 attacks a day from a few weeks ago.

I think the problem with the right's view of the Iraq conflict is that it is based in wishful thinking and ideology. All the 'we stopped a madman' and 'this was the response to 9/11' crap just flies in the face of the reality of the situation. We are stuck there. We have made little progress. It is costing us billions. The UN resolution will do little to garner help with money or troops in any substantial way. We are creating enemies of the people we claim to have liberated. I could go on.

But here. Have a link and an excerpt.

The commander of U.S. forces in Iraq said Wednesday the number of attacks against American troops in Iraq is increasing.

During a press conference, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez said the average of 20 to 25 attacks daily had increased over the last three weeks "to a peak of 35 attacks a day." He did not elaborate.

linked text

It's OK to speak your mind if you're an extreme right wing nutcase. 

General Jerry Boykin to troops of every denomination: “Why do they hate us? The answer to that is because we're a Christian nation. . . . We are hated because we are a nation of believers….Our spiritual enemy will only be defeated if we come against them in the name of Jesus. I knew that my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God and his was an idol."

Bush’s response:

Rumsfeld’s response: “I haven’t heard the comments.”

Condileeza Rice: “It’s a free country.’

Mahathir Mohamad : "The Europeans killed 6 million Jews out of 12 million, but today the Jews rule the world by proxy: They get others to fight and die for them."

Bush’s response: “this runs against everything I stand for.”

Condoleezza Rice: “Everyone thinks the comments were hateful, they are outrageous.”

Rumsfeld: "Well, he's an extremist."

Rumsfeld goes deaf when a right wing nutcase speaks. However when General Shinseki rightfully exposes Rumsfeld lower troop requirements to secure Iraq, Rumsfeld didn’t need a pres conference to find out. Too bad Shinseki wasn’t a right wing preacher.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

30 Soldiers AWOL. (Well, at least they share something with Bush.) 

Whaddya know. Of the 1300 soldiers rotated back to the states for R&R, 30 have missed their return flights. A few are because of illnesses or a sick child. Many, Centcom won’t reveal, are simply not going back.

Well well. Whaydya want to bet Bush cancels the R&R? If you think this is bad, wait until you star seeing the numbers of re-enlistments drop.

Hell, wait until Fox News starts calling them cowards. Or wait until some rightwing nutcase pulls a statistic out of the air that shows this is an acceptable number of AWOL soldiers. Sure it is. We damn well know the wingnuts have approved the death rate in Iraq.


"Many of them are understandable due to illnesses or canceled airline flights," Escudie said. One soldier was unable to board his flight to BWI because he lost his wallet, while another had a sick baby, Hagen said.

But a military advocacy group cited two cases in which service members called to say they do not want to return to the long and difficult mission in Iraq.…

….Steve Robinson, executive director of the National Gulf War Resource Center in Silver Spring, said the absences demonstrate that "there is a morale problem." Robinson said he had been contacted by two soldiers home on leave who do not want to return to their units

One of the soldiers, a National Guardsman from Florida, missed his scheduled flight back to Iraq three days ago, Robinson said. "I told him he needs to get his [rear end] back to Iraq," Robinson said.

"I definitely don't want to go back there," the guardsman told a reporter for CBS News. "I think most people -- if not all people who are there -- don't want to be there."

The soldier did not return a message left on his cell phone yesterday. "He's on the run," Robinson said.

Run guys. Run. I’m pulling for you.

Attacks Are Growing More Lethal and Sophisticated. 

Number of casualties are said to be constant throughout war. Attacks are about the same according to the British Defense Ministry. Centcom reports that attacks are growing more sophisticated, and more lethal, with as many as 20 attacks a day. Two weeks ago Sunday there were 43 attacks against coalition troops in one day.

total casualties

The average is 1.3 deaths a day, US only, and 8.8 wounded per day.

So, every three days, there are four dead American kids and 27 wounded.

Deaths since War is declared over. US only -172
Deaths since Uday and Qusay were killed. US only -107
Deaths since Bush says Bring 'em on. US only -135

Wounded soldiers are keeping hospitals from the USS Care to facilities in Germany to Walter Reed very busy.

US wounded- 1590
US wounded in accidents -337
Total US wounded - 1927
Total suicides -25

Just to be fair and balanced.

New to the Blogroll 

I've added a new blog, Healing in Iraq, to my links on the left side of the screen. Rather than write some introduction to the blog, I will let it's author speak for himself:

This is my first post. A bit about myself; My name is Zeyad. I'm 24, male. I live in Baghdad, Iraq. Also lived in the UK prior to the first Gulf war. I work as a dentist.

Unfortunately, there haven't been enough Iraqis running weblogs lately. There are only five of them as far as I know. I took it upon myself to start a weblog and introduce other Iraqis to this new (to us at least) and exciting world. Internet use in Iraq is very low, compared to other countries in the region. But it is growing daily. And more and more Iraqis will be able to post what they think about whatever is happening in their country and the rest of the world. Their voice will be heard at last, now that they have nothing to fear from doing so.

Zeyad's posts are very interesting, and at times present a far different picture than that seen through the camera lenses of the major news networks.

I think his recent post on The Anatomy of Attacks Against Americans is particularly interesting. Here's but a fragment:

One thing is certain. The attacks are less frequent than say two months ago. The attacks lately have been harming more Iraqis than Americans. Mortar shells in Ba'quba three weeks ago took 12 innocent lives at a grocery market. A bomb planted beside the sidewalk in Adhamiya exploded when a bus stopped next to it killing 7 people. This has made people very bitter and critical whenever they hear about attacks. More and more people are informing against others they know involved with attacks. Large numbers of Arab infiltrators have been arrested. Of course they came from Syria, and Saudi Arabia.

A serious problem with attacks is that on many occasions American soldiers start to shoot randomly in all directions after they are attacked. This leads to deaths and injuries among many innocent bystanders. When I'm driving and I spot an American patrol I usually stop or slow down until they are far away so I wouldn't be caught in any cross fire. Obviously they are being briefed to shoot and ask questions later.

Don't Waste Your Hate on Me 

Pardon the Metallica reference, I couldn't resist.

I came across another provocative article on TCS today, this one on Bush-Hatred, written by a Naderite.

A short excerpt:

As I explain to my Ethics and Philosophy of Law students, politics can and should be the most noble of human endeavors. It is the means by which citizens forge their collective destiny -- and identity. But the politics we actually have falls far short of this ideal. American politics today has become the politics of personal destruction. Temperate comments are the exception rather than the rule. Reason gives way to emotion, and not just any emotions, either: the very worst of them, such as spite, anger, envy, greed, and hatred. Politics has become warfare by other means. Anyone who loves this country has to be saddened.

Just When I said he Was No Kennedy 

Stategic Forecasting writes an article comparing Bush with Kennedy. OK. Pass that joint please.

OK, here's the whole thing. Sorry no link.

(Maybe I should say Bush will be relected.)

20 October 2003

by Dr. George Friedman

The Cuban Missile Crisis: Parallels in History


The Cuban missile crisis under President John F. Kennedy holds
some apt parallels to the challenges currently facing U.S.
President George W. Bush.


October always reminds us of the Cuban missile crisis. This is
the 41st autumn since the defining moment that ended the first
phase of the Cold War. In 2003, the memory of the missile crisis
is, we believe, particularly apropos. Americans in general tend
to think that everything the country is facing at a particular
moment is unprecedented. Americans tend to think in extremes.
Everything is either worse or better than ever before. Leaders
are more corrupt, more perfect, more brilliant or more stupid
than they have ever been. Americans lack nothing more than a
sense of proportion. It is therefore interesting to look at what
historian Barbara Tuchman called a distant mirror to compare the
current situation with circumstances the United States faced in
the past. This is not intended to either praise or condemn the
current administration or the Kennedy administration. It is meant
simply to gain some perspective on the current state of affairs.

The Cuban missile crisis started in a series of intelligence
blunders that began under one administration and continued into
the next. U.S. intelligence under Dwight Eisenhower misunderstood
the nature of Fidel Castro's insurgency and miscalculated the
likelihood of his victory. Eisenhower responded by initiating a
covert war against Castro that suffered from Eisenhower's desire
that it not only work, but that the war be completely deniable.

The result was the Bay of Pigs plan, which had little chance of
working in the first place and no chance of working once U.S.
President John F. Kennedy tinkered with it. The entire plan was
based on a misreading of the mood of the Cuban people. It was
based on the assumption that Cubans would welcome an invasion and
that, in addition, they would be in a position to rise up against
Castro. Whatever the true reason for the failure of the Cubans to
rise, U.S. intelligence was wrong: There was no rising.

Intelligence under Kennedy also miscalculated the Soviet Union's
intentions toward Cuba. That was an intelligence failure, but it
was also a failure on Kennedy's part to appreciate how Soviet
leaders viewed him. Kennedy came to power in part over his
persistent claim that the Soviets were ahead of the United States
in strategic nuclear capability -- what was called the missile
gap. In fact, the strategic balance heavily favored the United
States, and Kennedy knew it. He hammered the issue because it was
a strong plank in his electoral platform.

From Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev's point of view, however,
the victory of a man who did not seem to grasp the realities of
the nuclear balance opened up interesting possibilities.
Khrushchev's meeting with Kennedy in Vienna left him with the
conclusion that Kennedy was inexperienced, poorly informed and
timid. The Bay of Pigs fiasco simply confirmed to Khrushchev that
Kennedy was out of his league. Indeed, years of hagiography
notwithstanding, Kennedy had little grasp of the international
reality when he took office or in the following year.

Khrushchev understood what he thought Kennedy did not, which was
that the United States, with missiles in Germany and Turkey and a
large intercontinental bomber fleet, could devastate the Soviet
Union. The Soviets, on the other hand, could hardly touch the
United States. Khrushchev's decision to put missiles into Cuba
was a desperate attempt to rectify the balance of power. He
assumed, based on Kennedy's abysmal performance to date, that
U.S. intelligence might miss the missiles until after they were
operational and that, even if they were detected, Kennedy would
not have the nerve to take decisive action.

Three things led to the Cuban missile crisis:

1. Consistently poor U.S. intelligence.

2. A prior administration that failed to react to the threat in a
timely fashion and in essence passed on the Cuban problem to its

3. A new administration whose president struck his adversaries --
and allies -- as a deer frozen in the headlights.

We will allow our readers to draw the obvious parallels to the
current situation.

In spite of these defects, Kennedy recognized that the Soviet
move represented a fundamental challenge to U.S. security. He
understood that it was much preferable, from the U.S. point of
view, for American nuclear weapons to be menacing the Soviet
Union rather than have Soviet missiles threatening the United
States. While ethically shaky -- if we assume that the basis of
ethics is equal treatment -- the view was practically sound for
an American president. Thus, in spite of global criticism that he
was threatening nuclear war, Kennedy understood that
geopolitically he had no choice.

It is interesting to recall that Kennedy -- caught between those
who wanted an invasion of Cuba and those who wanted to take no
action that might trigger a nuclear war -- chose a compromise
path in which the United States announced its commitment through
a quarantine policy, without unleashing an invasion. It is also
interesting to note that there was a tremendous global uproar
over Kennedy's actions. Many allied governments, while publicly
supportive, were privately appalled by what they saw as an
overreaction. Crowds in European cities -- not to mention the
communist world -- demonstrated against U.S. aggression and
portrayed Kennedy as a simplistic cowboy, irresponsibly playing
with the lives of millions.

Khrushchev's perception was quite different. Realizing that he
had miscalculated, he sought a line of retreat. Khrushchev
realized too late that however unsophisticated Kennedy might have
appeared in Vienna and Berlin and during the Cuban missile
crisis, there was no escaping the physical threat that Soviet
missiles in Cuba posed to the United States. The physical danger
to the United States, more than any other factor, focused
Kennedy's mind. Kennedy knew that there was room for error on
everything but the physical security of the country. He
understood that, geopolitics aside, Khrushchev had crossed a
threshold when he introduced the threat, and crossing that
threshold changed the entire equation. That Europeans thought him
a cowboy was immaterial once the direct security of the United
States was at stake.

Kennedy's actions were seen as extreme and disproportionate to
the threat. He struck many in the world as reckless and
incautious. Countries worldwide pointed at the nuclear threat the
United States posed to the Soviet Union and argued that the
Soviets were simply balancing things. Kennedy didn't want the
threat to be balanced. He wanted the Soviets to remain at risk
and the Americans to be safe. As he famously said in connection
to other matters, "Life is unfair." It wasn't great philosophy,
but it made sense to Americans.

The United States threatened overwhelming force but actually used
very little. In the end, Kennedy negotiated a settlement with
Khrushchev and then lied about it. In a private deal with the
Soviets, the United States agreed to exchange its missiles in
Turkey for the Soviet missiles in Cuba. Kennedy's rationale for
this was sound. The missiles were obsolete. However, he also
understood that -- given his record of weakness in foreign
affairs -- he needed to appear to win even if he only tied.
Therefore, holding open the possibility of invasion and even
nuclear war as the threat, he extracted a concession from the
Soviets that made the withdrawal of the Turkish missiles a secret
part of the agreement, which would be void if it were publicly

In other words, Kennedy lied about the letter and nature of the
agreement. He lied explicitly when he asserted that there had
been no quid pro quo over the missiles. He then lied in spirit
when he made it appear that the Soviets had capitulated in the
face of his resolute courage. In fact, there had been a quid pro
quo and -- though the United States certainly came out ahead in
the immediate deal -- Washington had to give up its own missiles
and guarantee that it would not support attempts to overthrow
Castro. The United States stopped the missiles. The Soviets
secured Cuban communism.

It is interesting to see these parallels:

1. Both Kennedy and current U.S. President George W. Bush were
widely perceived as inexperienced in foreign affairs. Their foes
perceived them both as bunglers.

2. Both focused intensely on anything that physically threatened
the United States.

3. The rest of the world regarded both presidents as overreacting
and as cowboys, risking world security on minor provocation.

4. Both were casual with the truth when it suited the national --
or their political -- interests.

It is not clear how much deeper these parallels run.

Kennedy's missile crisis ended in a temporary stalemate. It also
triggered a massive Soviet commitment to increase its strategic
nuclear capabilities and led to the construction of a massive
ICBM force able to threaten the United States from within the
Soviet Union. By the end of the decade, the Soviets achieved the
strategic nuclear parity they had sought in Cuba. In that sense,
Kennedy simply bought a few years -- which was not trivial, but
not decisive.

However, Kennedy's next decision -- to increase the U.S.
commitment to Vietnam while supporting the overthrow of the Diem
government -- proved disastrous. Some claim that Kennedy wanted
to withdraw from Vietnam. Perhaps, but we note two facts. No
withdrawal took place while he was alive and, more important, it
was Kennedy's foreign policy team (including Dean Rusk, Robert
McNamara and McGeorge Bundy) who engineered the Vietnam War under
former President Lyndon Johnson. Kennedy could have fired them
all and built a new team, but we suspect he also would have
retained them and followed their advice. They were the winning
team in Cuba, after all.

At the decisive moment, Kennedy set the stage for the decline in
the second phase of the Cold War. Cuba represented a push. It was
a punctuation mark, not a definitive solution to anything. On the
contrary, it was an intermediate peak to which the United States
would not return until the end of the Cold War. Bush has not yet
had his Cuban missile crisis. He has not yet been able to
maneuver the war to its decisive moment. He is facing an
adversary that is committed to avoiding any decisive moment.
However, the danger that a Cuban missile crisis poses is that of
an illusory solution.

All of that is intended to be thoughtful and deep. The point of
this essay is simpler however. Americans tend to think of each
moment as extraordinarily unique and the present leaders as
particularly incompetent. Those who opposed President Bill
Clinton thought he was particularly venal, and those who oppose
Bush think him uniquely incompetent. It is useful to look back on
moments like the Cuban missile crisis, which we tend to see
through the prism of time as a particular moment of U.S. courage
and decisiveness. Like the current circumstance, it was a moment
born of failure, ineptitude and dishonesty, and it ultimately
gave rise to the things it was intended to prevent. The president
that presided over the crisis is revered today. There are few who
were alive in September 1962 who would have thought that Kennedy
would be remembered for his strategic acumen. And there are many
historians who still wonder what the shouting was about.

Bush's critics should take note of this. And Bush should remember
that the kind of victory he gains -- if he gains one at all -- is
as important as the victory itself.

That’ll Stop Those Nattering Nabobs of Negativity. 

Well, if you can’t get the press to stop telling the negative side of the Iraq story, you can always go around it. Of course, the host of Nightline , Ted Koppel, suggests that what the Bush Administration should do is stop spinning and just level with the American people.

But no. There’s an easier way. Spin the news with top Congressional aides and Meet The Press meetings.

Have a link and an exceprt.

linked text

Reporters and government officials have always squabbled over access; but the news coverage of the messy, ongoing conflict in Iraq has worsened the already tense relationship between the press and the administration. American officials accuse reporters of indulging in a morbid obsession with death and destruction, and ignoring how Iraq has improved since Saddam Hussein was toppled. Reporters grumble that the secretive White House and Pentagon hold back just how grim and chaotic the situation really is.

After a summer of sliding polls and an autumn of tough questions in Congress, the White House is hoping to boost public support by convincing Americans that the cynical national press is getting the story wrong. Last week President George W. Bush himself complained about the national media’s fixation on bad news, and made a show of going around them by granting interviews with local TV reporters. “I’m mindful of the filter through which some news travels,” he told one interviewer, “and sometimes you just have to go over the heads of the filter and speak directly to the people.” Of course, Bush isn’t the first president to try sidestepping the national press in favor of local reporters, who tend to be gentler questioners than the reporters who cover him every day. Bill Clinton did it when he thought the White House press corps was treating him harshly. So did the first President Bush.

And what about those nasty dead soldiers we keep hearing about? Well, just stop showing picture of caskets and covering memorial services.

linked text

Since the end of the Vietnam War, presidents have worried that their military actions would lose support once the public glimpsed the remains of U.S. soldiers arriving at air bases in flag-draped caskets.

To solve this problem, the Bush administration has found a simple solution: It has ended the public dissemination of such images by banning news coverage and photography of dead soldiers' homecomings on all military bases.

The perfidy. The perfidy.

Monday, October 20, 2003

Examples of "Great Progress" 

Just a footnote in the everything is really great over there tour, here is an excerpt from a day in Iraq- 15 attacks.

Also worthy of mention is Talkingpointsmemo which makes the point that most of the schools in Iraq were open in May of this year, and so the “we’ve just opened 450 schools” is more grasping at no news bullshit.

From CBS/AP:

Assailants ambushed a U.S. Army foot patrol just outside Fallujah at midday Monday, killing one American and wounding five others in the second day of attacks in this anti-U.S. hotbed west of Baghdad, the American command reported.

The patrol, from the 82nd Airborne Division, was first hit by an exploding homemade bomb, and then by small-arms fire, the military said. American troops then raided a nearby mosque in an apparent search for the attackers and detained three Iraqis.

It could not be learned immediately whether there were any Iraqi casualties, although two civilian trucks were damaged in the action, including one left dangling on a bridge, apparently from what witnesses said was a rocket-propelled grenade strike.

The attack occurred about 20 yards from the main bridge leading into Fallujah from Baghdad, 35 miles to the east, when about 30 soldiers on foot, accompanied by five Humvees, were on patrol along the highway.

This was the same general area where a U.S. Army ammunition truck, part of a convoy, broke down on the main road Sunday and came under attack. That truck and possibly two other vehicles apparently were hit by rocket-propelled grenades. Dozens of Iraqi youths danced and cheered as the vehicles went up in flames.

The soldier killed Monday was the 339th American to die in Iraq, the 218th to perish in combat. Since May 1, when President Bush declared an end to major combat, 104 U.S. soldiers have been killed by hostile action.

Sunday, October 19, 2003

More Bushco bullshit. Contractors bidding for Iraq business given three days. 

Yes. In an effort to give a perfunctory effort at opening contracts on Iraq business, and to fight off criticism that it’s all going to Bush’ cronies and the industrialists he owes his Presidency to, contracting is now open.

Yes, and the bidder are given three days to come up with a reasonably thought out contract offer.

The perfidy is unbelievable.

He’s No Kennedy. 

One of the saddest affairs today is how our once vaunted Space program has been laid on the backburner in lieu of the War on Terror. Sure Vandenberg Air Force Base launches a military satellite every few days. Of course, you wouldn’t know that. Because it’s a military secret.

It’s also a shame how the Chinese sent a man into orbit for the first time in their 6000 year history and the President of the United States said absolutely nothing. No congrats, no nothing.

Of course the President of NASA said something. He sent his congratulations.

Also, the development of International Space Station has also been put on a back burner in lieu of the…you guessed it…the thing that has to take precedence over every thing else in America: The War on Terror.

Few people paid any attention as an American astronaut, Dr. Edward T. Lu, and Russian astronaut Yuri Malenchenko had been up there for the last six months. The Russians finally sent a relief crew.

No coverage there. I guess it isn’t as interesting as…yeah…the War on Terror.

Kennedy took us to the moon, even after he died, his vision lived on. I think we’ve seen Bush’s vision for the future. Yes. Non stop war.

BTW, you know how funny it is that Bush Senior gave Ted Kennedy a public service award. But...there's no rift here.


Saturday, October 18, 2003

Dollars and Sense: The bottomline of inept foreign policy. 

A couple of interesting articles have appeared, one in Black Commentator and one in the Grey Lady about the real costs of American arrogance and the cost that we are beginning to pay for the Neoconderthals’ visions of American hegemony.

Not forgetting that the American economy still comprises about one quarter of the world’s economy, for the first time in a long time, Asian countries are looking at the booming Chinese economy as providing a new major trading partner and a way to lessen the influence of the US in the region.

Here’s an excerpt and a link.

BANGKOK, Oct. 17 — More than 50 years of American dominance in Asia is subtly but unmistakably eroding as Asian countries look toward China as the increasingly vital regional power, political and business leaders in Asia say.

China's churning economic engine, coupled with trade deals and friendly diplomacy, have transformed it from a country to be feared to one that beckons, these regional leaders say.

That new, more benign view of China by its neighbors has emerged in the last year as President Bush is perceived in Asia to have pressed America's campaign on terror to the exclusion of almost everything else.

The most recent efforts by the administration to persuade China to revalue its currency are seen, many in the region say, as an unproductive use of American political capital.

linked text

It is a widely known fact that the US is trying to devalue the dollar in regards to other currencies. This is the Bush administration’s way of lowering our export deficit. If the dollar is worth less, then we will owe less. It’s crazy, but then what is not crazy coming out of the White House? One of the consequences of this inept policy is about to become completely clear to anyone with a three digit IQ. Which rules out half the Republican Party immediately. But oil may soon be traded in Euros.

Have an excerpt and a link.

The previously unthinkable is now on the table. Russia, the world’s second largest oil exporter, is giving serious consideration to trading its black gold in euros, a switch that would surely set dominos in motion among other oil producing nations and, ultimately, knock the dollar off its global throne… The Bush men launched their offensive largely to ensure that oil would continue to be priced in dollars. American military dominance of the Middle East and a series of “regime changes” would eliminate the euro-threat – or so the theory went. An opposite chain of events has occurred, with the impetus coming, not from OPEC, but from an increasingly confident and assertive Russia, for whom Shock and Awe is mere fireworks…

linked text

Friday, October 17, 2003

The Real Patriot Vs The Fox News Patriot 

I travelled to Arlington National Cemetary this week to bury a friend. A 59 year old ad man who had begun his career in the glory days of Madison Avenue and ended it in the Public Affairs division of the Pentagon. He was decorated Marine combat veteran who recieved a full Marine Corps Honor Guard, a 21 gun salute, and horses pulling caisson with a flag draped across it. In Vietnam he recieved shrapnel wounds and a few Silver Stars to go with his Purple Heart.

They played Taps and the Marine Corps Hymn in a minor key and I could not fight back the tears. This man was a scholar and wickedly funny, a man who has lived in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and South Africa. He spoke Farsi and French, knew history and culture, and unlike the President, he was a real soldier, not a dress up soldier.

He was also a yellow dog Democrat and a liberal. And he thought Bush was an idiot. He said many at the Pentagon called Bush Chinese Food: DimSon.

Which brings me to the plane ride in. I sat next to a Bible toting rightwing nutcase who told me it was unAmerican to bar Christian prayer in schools, since most Americans were Christians. He told me his main source of information was Fox News and he carried a copy of Ann Coulter's book Treason and showed it to me.

I returned a couple of comments, letting him know that Fox News was more like propaganda and Roger Ailes was the Leni Reifensthal of America. He told me he thought Social Security was Communism and that Clinton was doing business with Ossama Bin Laden.

I suggested that since he was living in a fantasy world that I was eight feet tall and had a 16 inch dick.

I also reminded him that the flag was very big. It had 50 stars and 13 stripes and covered both of us.

His reply: "Well I am a patriot!" Then he opened in Bible and dismissed me saying, "I'm going to read the living words of Jesus. You wouldn't know, it's a Christian thing."

Actually I could see nothing remotely Christian in this Fox News Patriot, but I put on my i-pod and told him I was going to listen to Outkast. "It's a liberal thing," I said.

Who was it that said patriotism was the last refuge of scoundrels?

Anyway, it was a sad day seing my friend interred. Perhaps even sadder to see how political discourse in America had been largely reduced to epithets, and not just how far the right wing would go, but how far they have sunk.

Thursday, October 16, 2003

What Might Have Been - Lessons From Our Past 

It is amazing how Iraq has polarized and embittered partisan debate. On the left, there are questions of the legitimacy of war, of corruption, greed, and deception. It has become a focal point for Bush criticism. On the right, many defend the president, his advisors, and the mission in Iraq blindly, as a counterpoint to the left. Other nations want Iraqi self-rule this instant, without first making sure that the country will not implode.

Personally, I support the war, though I have some major problems with our handling of the peace. In some areas, Rumsfeld is to blame (why didn't we immediatley sieze the massive conventional weapons dumps that were looted and whose contents are now being used against us?). In others, some pencil pusher (do the Iraqis NEED brand new garbage trucks, brand new fire trucks, when our own municipalities have difficulty paying for them? Can't they have our used ones?). In others, the administration has dropped the ball (Halliburton - even if they were on retainer this is idiocy, it's like loading your enemy's gun for him).

However, one thing I have noticed is increasingly missing from the furor over Iraq is the Iraqis themselves. How exactly are we going to help them to set up a government that doesn't crumble? I've argued before that the Iraqi people have little history of increasing individual freedoms, as we do in the West, and that because of that, establishing a republic may be impossible. Our current path of Iraqi Governing Council, then elections, then, wa-la, a government, fills me with little hope. I pray that it will succeed, but fear that it is all happening too fast to really sink in, to build legitimacy, and to be adopted by the Iraqi people. Riots, attacks, and looting will sap the new government of its credibility, as it cannot protect its citizens, and eventually, it will fall. The fact, in addition, that the IGC is seen as a puppet of the West does even less to instill my confidence.

Unfortunately, the above is what I see happening. I blame the Bush administration for their poor planning of this particular phase. I blame the liberals for relentlessly attacking Bush. The arguments should not be "this war is unjust", "you lied to us", or "everyone hates us now". They should be "okay, now that we're here, we need to do whatever is required to leave Iraq with a stable government". I blame France, Germany, Russia, and the U.N., for demanding all-but-immediate self-rule, rather than opening a dialogue on the best way, for Iraq, to bring that self-rule about. And I blame society's enslavement to instant gratification - the violence should be over now. We should be pulling out by now. Iraq should be self-governing by now. Please. I cannot think of a nation, in the history of the world, that has adopted a completely new form of government and pulled it off without a hitch, in under a year. If someone can, please enlighten me.

Against that backdrop, I wish to introduce this thought-provoking op-ed piece from yesterday's Washington Times entitled Creating a new Iraq. I believe we are too far down our path to turn back now, and so to me this article is a "what might have been" piece. Basically, it looks at our history, and what it was that enabled us to break with monarchy and establish instead a republic. One that has lasted. The key ingredient, the author argues, is localized self-rule. In many ways this is similar to Jonah Goldberg's piece from April, which recommended applying Switzerland's canton model to Iraq. An interesting read.

A brief exerpt:

All current planners and commentators want for Iraq an effective central government, a fair constitution, a representative republic and adequate safeguards to protect minorities. What seems overlooked is that our model did not begin with a strong central government or a federal constitution to impose governance upon every state, every town and every village. The path of our model to success was indeed the opposite. Government began at the localities. Self-governing villages and towns became the building blocks of state governments and inspired state constitutions. The states and their representatives in turn constructed the federal government and the U.S. Constitution, and did so through trial and error.

Well, it's Not China 

An interesting article on CBS MarketWatch blows away a perception common in the media and political debates - China is not stealing our manufacturing jobs. They are actually losing them at a far worse rate than we are.

China, as well as America, has been hemorrhaging factory jobs over the past several years, according to a recent study conducted by Joseph Carson, an economist with Alliance Capital.

While the U.S. factory sector lost 2 million jobs in the 1995-2002 period as companies moved overseas to cut costs, China's manufacturing employment plunged by a staggering 15 million over the same time frame, Carson said.

The U.S. lost manufacturing jobs at a rate of 11 percent on average -- worse than the global average of 7 percent of the 20 major economies surveyed -- but better than China's manufacturing employment decline of 15 percent, he said.

Which begs the question - where are our manfacturing jobs going?

"Three of the five-Canada, Mexico and Spain-appear to have benefited from regional trade pacts or currency agreements that triggered a relative shift in manufacturing payroll patterns, rather than an increase in payrolls," said Carson.

It looks like good old Ross Perot may have been right all those years ago about the consequences of NAFTA and the "giant sucking sound".

However, Carson's report also shows that manufacturing jobs are disappearing from most developed and developing nations, and it is not a phenomenon unique to the United States - or to China, for that matter.

CBS MarketWatch

Uninformed Americans Make Bad Decisions. 

Alan Krueger, writing for the New York Times Business section, opens our eyes as to why so many Americans at the lower end of the economic totem pole voted for tax cuts that give most of the benefits to the richest and shifts the burden to the middle and lower classes. In polls conducted recently he found many Americans simply did not understand what they were voting for or had completely erroneous assumptions about how much they made, what bracket they were in, and how much they paid taxes vs. entitlements.

He called it “Unenlightened self-interest."

I call it something else: Americans are stupid.

Have an excerpt and a link.

“…most Americans will never have to pay the estate tax, yet 70 percent expressed support for eliminating it anyway. Support for eliminating the tax was nearly as great — 66 percent — among people who had strong reasons to favor keeping it: namely, those in families earning less than $50,000 a year who said that the increase in income inequality was a bad thing, that government policy contributed to differences in income, and that the rich pay less than they should in taxes.

Changing the wording from "estate tax" to "death tax" only marginally increased support for eliminating the tax, so people were not fooled by the framing of the issue.

Yet, Professor Bartels said, they were fooled. A separate survey sponsored by the Kaiser Foundation found that half of respondents thought "most families have to pay the federal estate tax when someone dies." Just a third gave the correct answer of "only a few families." (Only about 2 percent of estates are now subject to the tax.)”…

…..Professor Bartels, citing a 2003 Kaiser Foundation survey, points to "a good deal of ignorance and uncertainty about the workings of the tax system and the policy options under consideration." Sixty-one percent of respondents said they had not heard of President Bush's proposal to do away with the dividend tax. Even worse, most people said they paid more in federal income taxes than in Social Security and Medicare taxes, a confusion that has helped keep payroll tax cuts — which would have stimulated job growth — off the table. And only 29 percent of people thought high-income people would benefit most from Mr. Bush's proposal to speed up and make permanent the previously enacted tax cuts.

Sad, huh?

Here the link: linked text

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

William Bennett Creates Virtual School Curriculum 

In another ironic turn of events, Arkansas will soon have cyberschools that can teach from anywhere. Of course the curriculum is fairly conservative, as it is authored by Bill Bennett. I am guessing this is the same Bill Bennett,

Is this the same guy who lost $8 million gambling? If so, I guess that’s why they call is a for-profit K-12 school.

Have an excerpt and a link.

Students, many of whom were home-schooled before the academy opened, are taught in their own homes with Internet-based lessons developed by K12, a private Virginia-based company headed by former U.S. Secretary of Education William J. Bennett.

linked text

The fake letter incident. The Things Are Great Tour 

So apparently the same ‘hometown’ letter has appeared in various hometown newspapers around America from a soldier telling everyone how well things are going in Iraq. The letter comes from this soldier from 503rd Airborne Battallion.

Only a different hometown soldier signs each letter. And each soldier contacted has no recollection of having written this letter.

This is what happens when you government is run on PR. This is a post I made a few months ago when I stated that Bush 43 is the Spin King. Yes, this has to come from the White House. This has to come from a lobbying firm that creates fake messages to bolster public support.

It’s sad really. It shows you that the administration doesn’t trust the public to make up their own minds. Or perhaps it knows what people will think when they hear reports about soldiers getting killed. They know the public wasn’t well prepared for this long stretch of occupation and the billions it will cost us.

I don’t care whether you call this a Type C argument, or a type M argument, Trajan. It’s a lie. It stinks.

It goes along with the Skirting the Media tour that Bush is now making. I guess Fox News and Clear Channel’s hundreds of stations aren’t doing the job. Those other ‘liberal media outlets’ just don’t want to report that 3rd Infantry soldiers painted a school house. Yep, CBS just wants to report when soldiers die. Those nattering nabobs of negativity.

The only thing worse, is how many Americans are buying this.

Rush Talks About How He Wants To Be Treated. 

Wow. Who’d of thunk it? I actually agree with Rush Limbaugh on this.

$1000 says he won’t see one day in jail.

"There's nothing good about drug use. We know it. It destroys individuals. It destroys families. Drug use destroys societies. Drug use, some might say, is destroying this country. And we have laws against selling drugs, pushing drugs, using drugs, importing drugs. And the laws are good because we know what happens to people in societies and neighborhoods which become consumed by them. And so if people are violating the law by doing drugs, they ought to be accused and they ought to be convicted and they ought to be sent up.

"What this says to me is that too many whites are getting away with drug use. Too many whites are getting away with drug sales. Too many whites are getting away with trafficking in this stuff. The answer to this disparity is not to start letting people out of jail because we're not putting others in jail who are breaking the law. The answer is to go out and find the ones who are getting away with it, convict them and send them up the river, too."
-- Rush Limbaugh show, Oct. 5, 1995

The Difference Between Motives and Consequences 

While reading the blog of a good friend's brother, I came across this brilliant Open Letter to Paul Krugman by Arnold King.

In the letter, King makes the distinction between Type C arguments, those that focus upon the consequences of a policy, and Type M arguments, that focus upon the motives that brought a policy to light. As he says:

"We can have a constructive discussion of the Type C argument -- I can cite theory and evidence that contradicts Krueger and Card -- and eventually one of us could change his mind, based on the facts.

Type M arguments deny the legitimacy of one's opponents to even state their case. Type M arguments do not give rise to constructive discussion. They are almost impossible to test empirically. "

This is precisely the problem I've been having with this blog of late. The propensity to look at motives, or to twist the facts to fit with our preconceived notions of what we would like the motives to be. This rules out constructive debate and essentially opens the door for back and forth "nuh-uh" arguments.

King sums up the effects of this Type M propensity quite well:

"Paul, your columns consist primarily of type M arguments. Either you do not see the difference between type C arguments and type M arguments, or you do not care.

I am not going to try to guess your motives for relying on type M arguments. However, I can tell you some of the consequences.

One consequence is to lower the level of political discourse in general. You have a lot of influence with those who sympathize with your views. When they see you adopt type M arguments, they do the same.

Conversely, many of your opponents are stooping to your level. I see type M arguments raised by many of your enemies on the Right. As horse manure draws flies, your columns generate opposition that is vindictive and uninformed."

It is very tempting to say that liberals are a bunch of America-hating Commies, or that conservatives are racial bigots. That Jesse Jackson is a race-baiter or Karl Rove a greedy puppetmaster. In the end, these are all motive arguments, impossible to prove. As opinions, they are fine. But they do nothing to foster constructive debate, in my opinion the purpose for which this blog was created. How can you argue against any of the above? By saying "nuh-uh". And how much fun is that?


Monday, October 13, 2003

The changing face of finances.  

Two interesting trends were recently noted in how households spend money. The New York Times noted that the way welfare is being spent is drastically different. Once Welfare recipients would receive what was called cash assistance, which could be spent however they so choose within limits. Now the use of cash assistance has fallen by about half since Clinton’s 1996 Welfare Reform act. Now most of the funds are not being used for immediate needs, rather for child-care, mental health care, medicine and one time payments like car repair.

The question is, are we spending less on Welfare? No. We’re just spending it differently. What was once welfare is now an employment program.

This might be good on paper. I wonder if it makes life harder on people who are trying to survive.

Have an excerpt and a link

WASHINGTON, Oct. 12 — New government figures show a profound change in welfare spending, shifting money from cash assistance into child care, education, training and other services intended to help poor people get jobs and stay off welfare.

Cash assistance payments now account for less than half of all spending under the nation's main welfare program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, federal officials say…

"Welfare" used to mean a monthly check that could be immediately converted to cash. But statistics tabulated by the Department of Health and Human Services, at the request of The New York Times, show that the proportion of federal and state welfare money spent on cash assistance declined to 44 percent in 2002, from 77 percent in 1997. The proportion allocated to various types of non-cash assistance shot up to 56 percent, from 23 percent in 1997.

welfare changing, not shrinking

Salon Online Magazine cites a study that shows that two income families are being driving into bankruptcy not by Rolex buying, SUV driving single malt swilling habits. Rather, it is the costs of mortgages, home and health insurance, and the desire to provide better schooling for children that is driving up the costs.

Have an excerpt and a link.

Or is it? Could it be that those tarnished icons of dead-end decadence are just as much an overhyped myth as the hordes of teenage day-traders back in 1999 who supposedly beat Wall Street's best brokers without ever leaving the comfort of their bedrooms?

The biggest predictor that a person will end up bankrupt turns out not to be a bad Prada habit or a taste for sub-zero refrigerators. It's having children, according to the mother-and-daughter authors of "The Two-Income Trap: Why Middle-Class Mothers and Fathers are Going Broke."

kids, insurance, not overconsumption causing bankruptcies

Saturday, October 11, 2003

The New Republicans 

The question on the table is why Schwarzenneger was elected in a predominantly Democratic state. Was it an anti-Gray Davis message? Or is there a new kind of Republican appearing- one that is fiscally conservative and socially moderate? Certainly the vast majority of people who read the bigotry and revisionist history of Ann Coulter are Republicans. And the vast majority of the audience of professional bigot turned drug addict Rush Limbbaugh are Republicans. The Republican Party, from Trent Lott to Tom Delay has historically represented the radical fringe of the right wing, and the comfortable home of prejudice and racism.

The New York Times features two new articles that discuss the new Republican, one as the main topic, and the other tangentially, in Sam Katz, the man running against the incumbent mayor of Philadelphia.

This except about Arnold talks the pro abortion rights, pro environment stances that are necessary to win in a state like California.

"How he won tells me that his message — he's both fiscally conservative and socially inclusive and moderate — was one that appeals to the middle," said Christie Whitman, a moderate Republican and former New Jersey governor who recently stepped down as head of the Environmental Protection Agency….

But the radical right is not yet vested in the new idea of a socially liberal Republican.

Stephen Moore, president of the Club for Growth, a conservative group, said Mr. Schwarzenegger's victory was more of a lesson about how to win a state like California than about what the party should do nationally. "I don't think this means that the party nationally should move to the center in any way," he said. "The party that has to do some soul-searching right now is the Democratic Party."

According to a New York Times/CBS News poll taken July 13 through July 27, Republicans are generally supportive of abortion rights; 22 percent said that abortion should be generally available, and another 41 percent said it should be available under stricter limits. Republicans are divided on homosexual relations.

Rick Davis, a Republican consultant who advised another prominent moderate Republican, Senator John McCain of Arizona, when he ran for president in 2000, said he viewed the California election as evidence that "there is a pendulum swinging."

"Our party for the last 10 years has tried to run off the moderates," Mr. Davis said. "But it's happening without them."

How true. I remember when lots of people said Pat Buchanan’s address during the Republican National Convention that nominated Bush Sr. was the reason why swing voters were turned off.

Here is the link

Socially Liberal Republicans

And here is an excerpt from The New York Times that makes the point that Sam Katz is a Republican on the questions of money only. Funny how so many Republicans are marching lockstep with the biggest spending Republican administration in history

Here is the excerpt.

Like other Republicans, Mr. Katz has promoted deep tax cuts and called for improving the city's business climate. But on social issues, he is well to the left of the national party, supporting abortion and gay rights. He has worked hard to win union support — gaining endorsements from 10 locals this year — and often tells audiences that his brother was a gay man who died of AIDS.

"I don't fit into the mainstream of what you might consider to be the national Republican philosophy," Mr. Katz said in an interview.

Here is the link

Moderate Republican

Friday, October 10, 2003

William Bennett is a gluttonous gambling addict. Rush Limbaugh is a drug addict. 

I am laughing my ass off.

William Bennett wrote several books lambasting this “liberal society that knows no bounds for appetites” is 5’9” and weigh 290 pounds.

He also lost $8 million dollars.

Eight. Million. Dollars.

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.


Next Rush Limbaugh.

First some quotes from Rush’s show: Hat tip Roger Ailes

"To Ted Kennedy, whose liver is said to be shaped like a Chivas Regal bottle, what Bush said and what's best for America and the Iraqis doesn't matter." -- September 23, 2003

"In the audio link below, I go into detail about these non-thinking talking points that 'you can't tell people what to do with their bodies' and 'you can't legislate morality.' First of all, we tell people what they can do to their bodies all the time - no cocaine, no prostitution, no throwing yourself off a building. Second, laws are nothing but defining morality!" -- June 27, 2003

"In a recent speech to the American Bar Association, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy complained about mandatory-minimum sentences. He claimed that sentences are too long and punishments are too severe.... [Paras.] Someone needs to remind Justice Kennedy that it's the legislative branch, not the Supreme Court, which makes law. Mandatory minimums are totally constitutional. And these tough sentencing laws were instituted for a reason. The American people, including liberals, demanded them. Don't you remember the crack cocaine epidemic? Crack babies and out-of-control murder rates? Liberal judges giving the bad guys slaps on the wrist? Finally we got tough, and the crime rate has been falling ever since, so what's wrong?" -- August 18, 2003

Do you see my point Trajan?

There is absolutely no comparison between Rush Limbaugh who is a lying racist hypocrite and Micheal Moore. When Limbaugh mentions Carol Moseley Braun he says “Carol, I wanna AX you something,” and plays the theme song to the Jeffersons when he mentions her.

Micheal Moore is an Academy Award winning filmmaker and courageous pundit who convinced K mart to stop selling handgun ammunition. Al Franken doesn’t make a living telling lies. He exposes them.

So to equate the racist drivel on Clear Channel to the award winning inbestigative work I am referring to is nothing less than ridiculous. I will concede, one point. Only 425 of the 650 Clear Channle stations spits racist invective.

But here’s the point. Micheal Moore walks the talk. He exposes corporate corruption, yet has never robbed anyone of their pension funds. He has nothing against Blacks. His footnotes aren’t taken out of context, and his prose is proveable.

Finally, how long would a 19 year-old Black kid be free if he bought 30 OxyContin tablets a day? But when a right wing nut case racist hypocrit buys drugs in a parking lot, he faces nothing.

Jesus H Fucking Christ, Trajan

Several Things 

You needn't worry that I will stop posting. While I do, at times, find myself intensely frustrated, I'm not about to give up on this enterprise. And no, I do not want your posts to lean more in Tacitus' direction. As you say, our strength lies in our difference. I am not opposed to passion, I'm very passionate myself on many issues.

What irks me are sentences like these, "Trajan, this entire administration is propped up by 650 AM radio lie-dispensing radio towers in the name of Clear Channel Communications that spit racism and invective and smear good people. This administration is propped up by the Heritage Foundation, an extreme right wing billion dollar organization that paid for Jennifer Flowers and fills the airwaves with so called ‘experts’who spit out pollyannish shit about how things are great in Iraq because they have had 4 days of electricity." First, I thought the administration was propped up by big oil. Second - people are not forced to listen to AM radio. They CHOOSE to listen. And the people who listen think that your pundit heroes - the Al Frankens and Michael Moores of the world, are steaming piles of idiocy. It goes both ways. Third, I still find humor in the fact that you have attacked the administration in the past for no electricity, no water, et cetera. Now that they are back up to prewar levels, you are saying "so?".

What I say is my opinion. My interpretation of fact is exactly that, interpretation. Yours are but the same. All I ask is that that be kept in perspective.

As an aside, in our metropolitan area, Clear Channel owns six radio stations. Five are FM music stations. One is sports radio.

As to the format - I do not believe it is possible in Blogger. If one of our readers knows differently, their stepping forward would be appreciated.

As to posting more often, it is not likely. My job takes quite a bit of focus, and at the moment I have three massive projects underway. I have a wife at home. I enjoy offroading, and the vehicle work that goes along with it. Since temperatures have begun to drop, I've spent a lot of time in my garage turning wrenches. Then there is reading, and my own writing, that I pursue on the side.

Thursday, October 09, 2003

Civility is overrated Trajan 

Here are some facts to back up my assertions.

First: Look, I would hate it if you decided not to be a part of this anymore. I think the strength of this blog is that we are so different. I know every week we have more and more readers. Do you want someone more like Tacitus? I am not like him. I am like me. As someone we both know said "Why be like them? We'll just be a worse them. Let's be a better us." I am passionate Trajan. Because I love this country and cannot remember when it was so misled. I don't think one said I said in my previous post was vitriolic- Ok, at least not in the first paragraph.

Don't abandone this. In fact, I wish you posted more often. In fact, I wish we had a left right format so people didn't have to spend so much time strolling down to see two sides. Let's you and I have lunch and discuss it.

That said.

Protectionism DID drive steel out of America because steel buyers said it was too expensive here. I’ll look for the link. Reckless tax cuts have indeed been the source of hundreds of thousands of jobs – generally people who worked for state governments who were laid off because-well how many times do I have to say this? Because Bush depleted tax revenues with the cuts and block grants were cut as well.

Tax cuts were billed as job creation. OK. It’s -3,000,000 + (-57,000) = -2,943,000. Calling this a great sign is, as I suggested, grasping at straws.

The povery rate is calculated in a way that the Bush administration cannot hide figures.

From USA Today, one of your favorite papers and mine:

More than a million Americans sank into poverty last year, an annual Census report showed today. It was the first time in nearly a decade that the number of poor rose two years in a row.

The poverty rate was 12.1% last year, up from 11.7% in 2001, the Associated Press reported. Nearly 34.6 million people lived in poverty, about 1.7 million more than the previous year.

The figures were previewed three weeks ago by a Census survey testing a new methodology. Today's figures are considered more authoritative and comprehensive. They're the ones used by the government in calculating unemployment and setting policies.

Although the economy is showing signs of improvement, poverty rates lag behind economic shifts. Today's report will give Democrats ammunition to attack President Bush's stewardship of the economy.

Here is the whole story:

linked text

Just when you thought this fight was about to end, here is a reprot from Howell E. Jackson that uses modern accounting methods to show the government is hiding the fact that Social Security is already insolvent.

Last week the federal government ended the fiscal year with a reported deficit of approximately $400 billion, pushing the federal debt held by the public to nearly $4 trillion. Sobering though these numbers are, they actually understate the problem. Through an accounting sleight of hand with far greater consequences than the corporate scandals of recent years, the federal government distorts public debate, threatens social programs and impoverishes future generations.

What's missing from the $400 billion figure is an accurate recognition of the mounting obligations of the Social Security system. Under current practices, Social Security reports its financial performance on a cash-flow basis: it compares annual revenues to annual costs and reports a surplus or a deficit. Last year, Social Security enjoyed a surplus of roughly $160 billion. The government used this money to mask what would otherwise have been a $560 billion federal deficit.

But even if the Social Security surplus were not used to disguise the deficit, the budget would still ignore the substantial growth in commitments to current workers and retirees.

linked text

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