Friday, March 07, 2003

TELEVISION IN IRAQ

SUNDAY:
0800 - My 33 Sons
0830 - Osama Knows Best
0900 - I Dream of Mohammed
1000 - The Kabul Hillbillies

MONDAY:
0800 - Husseinfeld
0900 - Mad About Everything
0930 - Monday Night Stoning
1000 - Win Bin Laden's Money
1030 - Allah McBeal

TUESDAY:
0800 - Wheel of Terror
0830 - The Price is Right if Osama Says it's Right
0900 - Children are Forbidden from Saying the Darndest Things
0930 - Taliban's Wackiest Public Execution Bloopers

WEDNESDAY:
0800 - Beat the Press
0830 - When Kurds Attack
0900 - Two Guys, a Girl, and a Pita Bread
0930 - Just Shoot Everyone
1000 - Veilwatch

THURSDAY:
0800 - Fatima Loves Chachi
0830 - M*U*S*T*A*S*H
0900 - Veronica's Closet Full of Long, Black, Shapeless Dresses and Veils
0930 - Married with 139 Children
1000 - Eye for an Eye Witness News

FRIDAY:
0800 - Spongebob Squareturban
0830 - Who's Koran is it Anyway?
0900 - Teletalibans
0930 - Camel 54, Where are You?

SATURDAY:
0800 - Judge Jihad
0830 - Suddenly Sanctions
0900 - Who Wants to Marry a Terrorist Millionaire?
0930 - Cave and Garden Television
1000 - No Witness News

Thanks to my friend Mary for this one.
UNPROVABLE CASE NOT PROVEN -- From the Bush administration's point of view, Dr Blix's report today was depressingly negative. While cautious, Dr Blix asserted that Iraq was 'substantially disarming' and called it the most progress the U.N. has made in Iraq since the mid-1990s. Dr Blix asserted that the destruction of the Al-Samound missiles, which the Bush admin has dismissed as unimportant, was a critical step, saying it wasn't 'just toothpicks' that were being demolished. The Bush and Blair administrations, however, eager for war, dismissed Dr Blix's report and ordered the rest of the Security Council to fall into line against Iraq. General Powell termed Iraq's compliance 'grudging'--as if grudging compliance is a good reason to go to war.

The Foreign Secretary Jack Straw of the United Kingdom (at right) offered a 'compromise' solution, whereby Iraq would have until March 17 to convince those who refuse to be convinced under any circumstances that Iraq has completely disarmed itself of forbidden weapons of mass destruction. The French responded forcefully and repeated its intention not to allow passage of a resolution that called for automatic force against Baghdad.

The entire administration case is based upon forcing Saddam to do something he cannot do: Prove a negative. The admin insists Saddam must prove he has no weapons of mass destruction. If he cannot do so (and he cannot, no one can), the admin insists a pretext for war exists. Of course, the proper method is to allow weapons inspectors to crawl all over the country and if something is found, Iraq is in material non-compliance and the Security Council meets to decide what the proper course is. What the Bush admin demands, however, is that the rest of the world defy the normative laws of evidence and insist that something be found--even if it isn't there.

This reminds me of what film director Oliver Stone once said when questioned about the lack of proof for his Kennedy assassination theory. Mr Stone replied that the entire assasination has been covered up and the lack of evidence actually proved this was the case. It's a profoundly nonsensical answer. The Bush admin holds to a similar logic, however.

And they wonder why the rest of the world thinks America has lost its senses.
WHERE EVERY TUESDAY IS FAT TUESDAY -- The Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta pronounced San Antonio, Texas as the fattest city in America. Thirty one percent of all residents of San Antonio are obese and 65% of all San Antonio adults are overweight. Adding insult to injury, 'it was reported that casting directors for the remake of the movie "The Alamo," which is being shot just north of San Antonio, were having a hard time finding extras who were lean enough to play the roles of Mexican soldiers.'

BLIX SAYS IRAQ 'SUBSTANTIALLY DISARMING' -- In a blow to Bush admin propaganda efforts, UNSCOM chief Dr Hans Blix told the Security Council this morning that Iraq is 'substantially disarming', singling out the Al-Samoud missiles as an example.

Dr Blix also said: "The destruction undertaken constitutes a substantial measure of disarmament. We are not watching the destruction of toothpicks. Lethal weapons are being destroyed," he said. Dr Blix welcomed recent Iraqi cooperation which "can be seen as active, or even pro-active."

Looks like a tough day at the U.N. for General Powell. I almost feel sorry for him. Almost. I'll keep updating throughout the day...
REPORT: BIN LADEN'S SONS ARRESTED -- Some good news finally. Pakistani officials are reporting that two sons of Osama Bin Laden have been captured in southern Afghanistan. Apparently, the two were nabbed during a military occupation that reportedly killed seven other members of Al Qaeda. Thus far, this report has not been confirmed by U.S. officials. If true, it is very good news. Osama himself must be nearby. Let's hope we tighten the noose this time instead of letting him slip through our fingers, as we did during Operation Anaconda in the caves of Tora-Bora.
BUSH LETS SAUDI BASTARDS OFF THE HOOK...AGAIN -- In a move typical of this cynical administration, the State Department has left Saudi Arabia off its blacklist of countries that violate religious freedoms, contrary to the specific recommendations of the commission created to compile a list of worst offenders. “I’m appalled and disappointed,” says Felice D. Gaer, the commission chair, about the decision. “But I’m not surprised.” The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom concluded that with the fall of the Taliban, Saudi Arabia is the worst violator of religious freedoms on the planet.

Although many religious groups--including those with close ties to the White House--are expected to be outraged by the latest expression of political cynicism and moral hypocrisy from the Bush admin, defenders of the White House will probably assert that corrupting the list for political reasons is commonplace. Uh, no, actually. The final report on religious freedom and repression issued by the Clinton White House in 2000, Saudi Arabia was singled out as a country where religious freedom does not exist.

George W Bush: Restoring honor to the White House--one lie at a time.
NO PRESS CONFERENCES ABOUT THIS STUFF -- We got a double-dose of a heavily-sedated Mr Bush last night, yakking on about his favorite (only?) topic: Iraq. Interestingly, no press conferences are scheduled to specifically discuss the issue of rising unemployment, which went up to 5.8% of the workforce last month as businesses slashed over 300,000 jobs across the country, wiping out gains from the month before.

And no press conferences are scheduled to discuss the plunging stock market, which lost more than 100 points yesterday and will probably suffer at least similar losses today. To make matters worse, the Nikkei fell over 225 points yesterday, bringing it to the lowest level in 20 years.

And no press conferences are scheduled to discuss rising gasoline prices, which have hit $3 per gallon in a few places and will reach a national average of $1.76 in April of this year. On parts of the West coast, gas prices are already averaging about $1.93 per gallon. High gas prices fall heaviest on the poor, of course, so Mr Bush and his economic 'brain trust' may not consider this development a threat to the Republican party donor base.

No, the White House is strangely quiet on all these subjects. Funny, that.

Thursday, March 06, 2003

FROM THE OFFICE OF REP. DAVID OBEY (D-WI)

RANKING MINORITY MEMBER OF THE HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE


The President will be holding a nationally televised press conference
tonight. Barring the announcement of any new information, here are 10
questions (not ordered by importance), which the White House has thus far
refused to answer:

HOMELAND SECURITY

1. On January 16, 2003, your administration sent Congress a
letter insisting that Democratic efforts to increase homeland security
funding were "unnecessary." This letter came six months after you personally
vetoed a $5.1 billion homeland security package, including $423 million for
our nation's first responders. It also came despite the fact that your
budget requested no money for port security grants and refused to fund what
your own secretary of energy said was necessary to protect vulnerable
nuclear materials. Now, seven weeks later, you and your administration are
chastising Congress for underfunding homeland security. Weren't you the
driving force behind reducing funding for homeland security?

2. One year ago, you specifically promised our nation's
firefighters and police officers that you would request $3.5 billion in new
money for first responders to help improve our nation's defenses after
September 11th. However, your budget request actually proposed slashing $1.5
billion out of existing grants to these same police officers and
firefighters to pay for this first responder program. In all, you actually
only requested less than $1 billion in "new" money for first responders,
while vetoing $423 million for first responders in August of 2002. How can
you now attack Congress for underfunding our nation's first responders?

TAXES

3. In pushing your economic stimulus package, you continue to
say "92 million Americans will receive an average tax cut of $1,083."
However, what you do not say is that 80% of all taxpayers will receive less
than that amount, and that the average American family would receive a tax
cut of only $256, while almost half of all taxpayers would see a tax cut of
less than $100. Do you think you are unfairly misleading Americans into
thinking they will get a large tax cut from your plan when clearly most will
not?

DEFICITS

4. In your State of the Union, you said that "We will not deny,
we will not ignore, we will not pass along our problems to other Congresses,
to other presidents, and other generations." However, your budget is
proposing a massive tax cut that would seriously exacerbate the deficit, at
the very moment we could be spending hundreds of billions of dollars on a
war in Iraq. How can you reconcile your statement that we "will not pass
along our problems" with your budget that clearly increases the deficit?

5. Buried in your own budget is a table [Table S-3] that shows
that if we continued to fund the government as we are right now, we would be
in surplus starting in 2006 and that the surplus would increase every year
thereafter. The chart also shows, however, that by implementing your budget
and your tax cut, the deficits would greatly increase indefinitely. Why
should Congress pass your budget and your tax cut if your own budget
documents show that it will put the nation into deficit indefinitely?

WAR IN IRAQ

6. According to the White House, the total cost of the tax cut
is at least $50 billion a year for the next decade. That is enough to pay
for a prescription drug plan under Medicare, enough to provide health
insurance to every child in America, and more than enough to enact every
major homeland security proposal made by experts in the field. Why should
Congress pass this tax cut instead of tackling these and other problems with
those funds?

7. You have sent Congress a tax cut proposal that would cost
the government almost $700 billion dollars. You have also sent Congress a
proposal to provide prescription drugs under Medicare for roughly $400
billion. However, your Administration has refused to provide even a rough
estimate of what it expects the war in Iraq to cost. How are Congress and
the American public expected to make a decision about supporting this war
without having some idea of what the price tag will be?

8. Throughout American history, the nation has been asked to
accept the concept of "shared sacrifice" during times of war, through
increased taxes, rationing of materials, and other such practices. Yet, with
the country now on a brink of a potentially long and expensive engagement in
the Mideast, how can you justify proposing another massive tax cut?

JOBS/THE ECONOMY

9. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, since you were
inaugurated President, the United States has lost almost 2 million jobs.
While you claimed that your first tax cut would stimulate the economy, since
its passage the economy has lost 1.5 million jobs. Some in your
Administration now claim that the job losses were due to September 11th -
yet, between the time your tax cut passed and the attacks, the economy shed
495,000 jobs. Overall, according to the BLS data, your Administration has
overseen an average loss of 69,000 jobs per month - the worst rate in the
last 50 years. Do these statistics indicate to you that your economic
policies require a drastic change?

EDUCATION

10. Last week, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist told the
nation's governors, "The federal government, which talks a good game, has
not fulfilled its obligations" to the states on education funding. His
comment came on the heels of your latest budget proposal, which asked for
$9.7 billion less than is necessary to fully fund your No Child Left Behind
Act. This latest budget proposal follows last year's education budget
proposal, which also fell billions short of fully funding your own education
legislation. Do you agree with Senator Frist that education needs
substantially more funding than you have asked for in your budget?

Thanks to my brother John of the American Federation of Government Employees for bringing this to my attention.
MUSTACHE-WEARING TRAITOR MONKEYS -- My favorite moment in the Iraq War debate over the last few weeks was when a Kuwaiti heckler annoyed the Iraqi ambassador to the Arab League conference and the Iraqi responded by shouting, on live satellite television: ``Shut up you monkey. Curse be upon your mustache, you traitor.''

So, exactly what is the deal with Iraqi mustaches? Not only does Saddam have one, but most of his inner circle does, as well.
UNNAMED DEMOCRAT EDGES BUSH IN '04 -- A new Quinnipiac poll shows Mr Bush losing to an unnamed Democratic candidate in the 2004 election. According to the University:

'By a 48 -- 44 percent margin, American voters say they would vote for the as yet unnamed Democratic party candidate for President over Republican incumbent George W. Bush, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today.

'Hampered by Americans' dissatisfaction with life in the U.S. and concerns about war and the economy, President Bush has a 53 -- 39 percent approval rating, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University poll finds.

'Only 9 percent of American voters are "very satisfied" with the way things are going in the nation today, with 35 percent "somewhat satisfied;" 28 percent "somewhat dissatisfied," and 26 percent "very dissatisfied."

'In an open-ended question allowing for any answer, 31 percent of American voters list war with Iraq as the most important problem facing the U.S. today, followed by 27 percent who list the economy/unemployment and 14 percent who list terrorism/security.

'"This month, we find that an unnamed Democrat would edge out President Bush. The political winds are hard to read this early in the game, but we do know that war and a bad economy are not good for anyone -- especially sitting presidents," said Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

'Voters who list the economy/unemployment as the most important problem support the Democratic candidate over Bush 61 -- 32 percent.

'American voters support 57 -- 35 percent U.S. military action against Iraq to force President Saddam Hussein from power, with no mention of weapons of mass destruction.

'By an almost identical 56 - 38 percent margin, voters say the U.S. should wait for United Nations support, rather than moving alone against Iraq,

'"Yes, Americans want to take out Saddam. No, they don't want to do it alone. They'd rather take some extra time and round up some help," Carroll said.'
THE MANTRA OF BLUSTERING FOOLS -- According to this opinion piece in Salon, the mantra of White House hardliners is: oderint dum metuant, which translates to "Let them hate us so long as they fear us." Apparently, this applies to the Europeans as much as Middle East terrorists.

Anyone get the feeling most of these neocon dopes got picked on a lot in school?
BLOOD BEGETS BLOOD BEGETS BLOOD BEGETS... -- Grief-stricken and enraged by a vicious suicide bombing that left 15 dead in Israel, the Israelis strike back, killing 11 Palestinian civilians.

Who is winning this war?
EUROPEAN ANTI-AMERICANISM...THEN AND NOW -- British historian Simon Schama examines the history of European Ameriphobia from the time of the Founding Fathers, while American Oxford student Seth Green says Europeans and Americans today are not so different as they seem. Writes Green:

"Mainstream Europe shares American values. In the aftermath of September 11, Europeans overwhelmingly supported our common war on terrorism. Today, most Europeans still agree with our campaign to end terrorism and promote world security. Eighty-five percent of Brits, 67 percent of French and 82 percent of Germans believe that Saddam Hussein is a dangerous threat, and majorities in each of these countries support removing him. While many moderate Europeans are against war in Iraq under the current conditions -- primarily because they want more time for inspections -- they fundamentally share our principles."

And Mr Green explains why this is so important: "Mainstream America and mainstream Europe must join together to demand that our leaders abandon the rhetorical ploy of vilifying each other. The Bush administration's criticisms of Europe as a continent of appeasement, and French and German leaders' insistence that Americans are war-hungry cowboys, have widened the rift. The result is a Western civilization divided at the very time when a united front is critical."
THE FUTURE ACCORDING TO RICHARD PERLE



This was sent to me anonymously so I do not know who deserves the credit, but my thanks goes to the author--whoever he/she is.
REPUBLICAN SNOUTS IN THE TROUGH -- The Armed Forces Tax Fairness Act is--or was--a bipartisan bill to cut taxes for servicemen and women serving overseas. I like it. I'm not sure soldiers serving overseas should pay any taxes at all, so I'm certainly in favor of a tax cut for them. I think it's a good idea. To the Republicans, however, it is merely a good opportunity to load the bill up with unrelated lard. Due to the bill's popularity in Congress, the House Republican leadership opened it up to special interests and now everyone and their grandmother is trying to get some special tax break or loophole inserted before it is passed and sent to the White House. For example, the Plano Molding Co. of Illinois wants a change in the IRS code that would give the company a tax break and take about $3 million out of federal coffers. By a strange coincidence, this company just happens to be located in the district of Dennis Hastert, Republican and Speaker of the House.

Democrats are vowing to fight the Republican pork-barrelling. Says Mr Charles Rangel (D-NY), the ranking Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee: "If we give members the opportunity to pass unrelated amendments, then we lose the bipartisan spirit and risk delaying tax relief for the men and women that are sacrificing in order to defend our nation."

Rewarding our soldiers, however, is not the first priority for the House Republicans and they want their pork in the bill before it leaves the chamber. "It's part of the legislative process," said House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas. "You take things that are important to you and put them on trains leaving the station, trains that you hope will end up at the White House."

Odd, the Republicans used to call this stuff 'pork' and 'waste', but now it is just 'part of the legislative process.' Funny, that.
GREENBACKS, BLUEBACKS, REDBACKS, NEWBACKS -- In its ongoing battle to thwart counterfeiters, the U.S. Treasury Department will begin issuing $20 bills with color backgrounds beginning on March 27. I seem to recall that the last redesign of American money to thwart counterfeiters began with the $20 bill in the late 1990s, so if this new scheme is considered a success, we could soon see such a change for all our paper money.

Kind of looks like Monopoly money, doesn't it? And with Mr Bush's fiscal policies, that's about all it will be worth in a few years.
BIN LADEN MANHUNT PAYING OFF? -- I'm hearing rumors the U.S. is close to capturing Al Qaeda chieftain Osama Bin Laden (he whose name has not been spoken). I've also heard rumors that Mr Bush is cancelling some or all of his meetings today and that Fleischer is cancelling his regular press briefing. Just rumors right now, but I'll keep everyone informed.
NEOCONS CRAWL OUT OF THE DARK -- Leave it to Nightline to figure out what is going on and do a story on the neocons at the Project for a New American Century. I'll comment further on this story when I get a look at the transcript, but I was fairly impressed by the program. The story never got at the importance of Israel in all the calculations of American neocons, probably not because Mr Koppel and his producers are unaware of that angle, but because that part of the issue is considered too controversial (toxic?) at this time.

Nevertheless, important facts about the goals of the neocons were exposed to a mass audience for the first time and Mr Bill Kristol, who is considered by some as the foremost intellectual of the neocon movement, agreed to be interviewed for the program. I thought Mr Kristol argued his case well, though he was less than candid when he skipped over the further ambitions of neocons in the Middle East, aside from conquering Iraq and transforming it into a docile satellite. Neocon strategy also calls for dramatic alterations in Syria and Iran and campaigns of military conquest are envisioned in both cases. Mr Kristol confessed the neocons regard regime change in Iran as critical, but suggested, implausibly, that this could be accomplished absent military action.

This subject deserves much more attention and I will give it some, frequently, in the days to come. In the meantime, I congratulate Nightline for tackling this critical subject, which has been shamefully neglected by the national news media.

Wednesday, March 05, 2003

BOOKS, NOT BOMBS -- Who says kids don't care about anything nowadays. These kids do. Tens of thousands of high school and college students from around the world marched to protest the impending Iraq War.

Conservative counter-demonstrators could muster only 15 kids in Washington, D.C., where they assembled outside the French embassy and shouted anti-French slogans. Here's my favorite part: 'The confrontation stopped traffic along Washington’s heavily traveled Reservoir Road, where Secret Service agents intervened to drag away an elderly French woman who confronted the students, yelling at them to shut up and proclaiming that “you are imbeciles just like your president.”'

Heh, as Glenn Reynolds might write.
ANOTHER ATROCITY IN ISRAEL -- Whatever the evils of the Occupation, there can never be any excuse for this. Some days it seems as if an entire generation of Palestinians would rather die in a blaze of gore than build a home for their people. How can civil society ever be created in Palestine?
ARE FRANCE & GERMANY BLUFFING? -- The U.S. and U.K., along with Spain and Bulgaria, are preparing to submit a second resolution to the U.N. Security Council authorizing force against Iraq, while the Russians, Germans, and French have vowed to block the resolution.

UNMOVIC chief Hans Blix, who will deliver a crucial report on Iraqi cooperation with U.N. inspectors, disappointed the War Party by saying Iraq has been cooperative with inspectors in recent weeks. The Iraqis have been destroying missiles and permitting private interviews with Iraqi scientists involved in weapons programs, according to Dr Blix.

“There has been a great deal more co-operation now,” he said. “The threat (of force) certainly has brought it there. I hope it is not too late.”

This is getting interesting. For some time I've been of the opinion that when it came time to vote, the French and Russians would cave and either abstain or find some reason to support a second resolution to use force against Iraq. Both countries believe it is critical to their national interests to keep the U.S. within the U.N. framework and fear the consequences of a U.N. decision that provokes the arrogant Bush admin into acting unilaterally. The Chinese, because of their preoccupation with Taiwan, also fear the consequences of a rogue America, projecting force around the globe with no concern for international will or opinion.

However, if the French and Russians are bluffing--as The Times of London suggests--they have mounted a convincing front. Leaving themselves little wiggle room should the Bush admin move forward with its military plans, the governments of France, Germany, and Russia have led their people to believe they will not bestow the imprimatur of U.N. legitimacy on the neocon conquest of Iraq. The repercussions those governments would suffer from their own people if they cave into Bush's demands are unknowable, but must be a source of considerable consternation for Presidents Chirac and Putin and Chancellor Schroeder.

Is this a high-stakes game of chicken? The people I'm talking to still insist the French will cave when the chips are down but I'm starting to wonder. Are those French spines made of eclair--or steel?
21 Rules for Being a Good Republican


1) You have to believe that the nation's 8-year prosperity prior to W's administration was due to the work of Ronald Reagan and George H. Bush, but that today's growing deficit and rising gas prices are all Clinton's fault.

2) You have to believe that those privileged from birth achieve success all on their own.

3) You have to be against government programs, but expect Social Security checks on time.

4) You have to believe that government should stay out of people's lives,yet you want government to regulate only opposite-gender marriages and what your official language should be.

5) You have to believe that pollution is OK, so long as it makes a profit.

6) You have to believe in prayer in schools, as long as you don't pray to Allah or Buddha.

7) You have to believe that only your own teenagers are still virgins.

8) You have to believe that a woman cannot be trusted with decisions about her own body, but that large multi-national corporations should have no regulation or interference whatsoever.

9) You love Jesus and Jesus loves you and, by the way, Jesus shares your hatred of AIDS victims, homosexuals, and ex-President Clinton.

10) You have to believe that society is color-blind and growing up black in America doesn't diminish your opportunities, but you still won't vote for Alan Keyes.

11) You have to believe that it was wise to allow Ken Starr to spend $50 million dollars to attack Clinton because no other U.S. presidents have ever been unfaithful to their wives.

12) You have to believe that a waiting period for purchasing a handgun is bad because quick access to a new firearm is an important concern for all Americans.

13) You have to believe it is wise to keep condoms out of schools, because we all know if teenagers don't have condoms they won't have sex.

14) You have to believe that the ACLU is bad because they defend the Constitution, while the NRA is good because they defend the Constitution.

15) You have to believe that socialism hasn't worked anywhere, and that Europe doesn't exist.

16) You have to believe the AIDS virus is not important enough to deserve federal funding proportionate to the resulting death rate and that the public doesn't need to be educated about it, because if we just ignore it, it will go away.

17) You have to believe that biology teachers are corrupting the morals of 6th graders if they teach them the basics of human sexuality, but the Bible, which is full of sex and violence, is good reading and right on the mark.

18) You have to believe that Chinese communist missiles have killed more Americans than handguns, alcohol, and tobacco.

19) You have to believe that even though governments have supported the arts for 5000 years and that most of the great works of Renaissance art were paid for by governments, our government should shun any such support. After all, the rich can afford to buy their own art and the poor don't need any.

20) You have to believe that the lumber from the last one percent of old growth U.S. forests is well worth the destruction of those forests and the extinction of the several species of plants and animals therein.

21) You had to believe that we should forgive and pray for Newt Gingrich, Henry Hyde, and Bob Livingston for their marital infidelities, but that bastard Clinton should have been impeached.

Thanks to my hardcore Democrat mother for this one. :^)
MORE ON BUSH'S 'EXPLODING' DEFICITS -- In another example of how traditional allies of the Republican party are increasingly alarmed at the Bush admin's fiscal policy, the Committee for Economic Development a pro-business group, has released a paper with the centrist Concord Coalition strongly opposing and condemning Mr Bush's latest tax cut package. The paper, revealingly entitled Exploding Deficits, Declining Growth: The Federal Budget and the Aging of America, urges the administration and Congress to focus on preparing the country for the impending retirement of the Baby Boom generation and reject tax cuts at this time.

Says Roy J. Bostock, Chairman of CED and the Bcom3 Group, Inc., '[t]he current budget projections fail to take into account policies that are likely to increase future deficits; such as making the 2001 tax cuts permanent, adding prescription drugs to Medicare, or a possible war with Iraq. Nor do they factor in the implications of the aging of our population in the decades ahead. When you add it all up, the official estimates of long-term deficits are significantly understated."

Significantly understated? I'll say they are. We've just seen today (read "Axis of Irresponsibility" below) that the CBO has had to 'revise' its budget deficit projections of only five weeks ago upwards by $30 billion--or 15 percent. And that, as noted, does not even take the Iraq War, occupation, and reconstruction into account. As far as budget deficits are concerned, George W Bush is taking the United States where no land has gone before.
THE UNTOLD STORY OF JOHNNY LINDH -- I recommend the latest issue of The New Yorker to all my readers. (Actually, I recommend all issues of The New Yorker, but this one especially.) A long piece on the government's botched case against the American Taliban makes for fascinating, if nauseating, reading. The story is replete is shady FBI interrogators, evidence tampering, and the questionable assertions of Mr Lindh himself, who claims to have no ties to Al Qaeda or terrorism. Even if you don't believe everything Mr Lindh says you will find this article a damning indictment of the way our government handled the case and, most likely, trampled over the civil liberties of an American citizen. The link will take you to an interview with the author of the article, but to actually read the piece you must pick up an issue. Do it.
AXIS OF IRRESPONSIBILITY -- Well, the economy isn't growing much, thanks to our jobless recovery, but one thing is growing like gangbusters: The budget deficit. It's already slated to hit a record $304 billion for a single fiscal year, but even that is old news. In fact, the Congressional Budget Office now admits that its deficit estimate of only five weeks ago was woefully inaccurate and underestimated the true size of the budget shortfall. The CBO's latest projection increases the budget deficit by about $30 billion, or 15 percent. 'But some independent analysts say the administration and Congress alike may be overly optimistic. Asked about House analysts' increasing their estimate of this year's deficit by $30 billion, Edward McKelvey, an economist at Goldman Sachs, said he thought the figure was too small.'

Of course, none of this takes into account the upcoming Iraq War, which the Bush administration knows will cost at least $90-100 billion, to say nothing of what is almost surely a lengthy and hugely expensive occupation of the country. The true effects of Mr Bush's proposed tax cuts are difficult to gauge at the moment, but they are almost certainly far worse than what the administration is admitting so far. Most private analysts project a budget deficit of at least $400 billion this year. Not only is that a world record for budget deficits, it's the Mother of All Budget Deficits. Nothing even comes close. And unlike the 1980s, we don't even have a hard-charging economy to show for it.

As usual, the Republicans are trying to hide their budget mess behind the chimera of 'dynamic scoring', a myth propagated by supply-side tax-cutters 25 years ago. According to the theory of dynamic scoring, tax cuts should not be seen as subtractions from revenue intake, but rather additions because the cuts stimulate so much economic activity that more income is created and therefore, more total income is taxable. Never mind, of course, that the history of dynamic scoring was written quite clearly in the 1980s, when the Reagan administration produced world record deficits--that Mr Bush is about to explode into near irrelevance.

However, even some Republicans are finding it increasingly difficult to defend dynamic scoring. 'Mr. Nussle, chairman of the House Budget Committee, voiced some skepticism on dynamic scoring. I'd rather be conservative in my projections," he said, "and be surprised by the positive rather than by the negative."'

That is the reality of American politics for the last 20+ years. Economic conservatism is dying out in the Republican party, replaced by radical tax-cutting and bland assertions that the inevitable deficits are of no importance. Of course, during the Clinton administration, we recall the Republicans in Congress regarding budget deficits as the ultimate fiscal and moral evil, requiring no less radical an antidote than an amendment to the Constitution requiring balanced budgets. Now, only six and seven years later, the Republicans have forgotten about such talk and confidently assure us that all those deficits they told us to fear in the 1990s are of no matter now.

Axis of hypocrisy, too, I suppose.

Tuesday, March 04, 2003

WARM WELCOME FOR OUR TROOPS -- Turkey isn't welcoming our soldiers, but at least the Bulgarians are doing their part. That's New Europe for you.
HOWLING MAD -- As usual, The Daily Howler is must-reading. Today is a continuation of yesterday's account of how the national press demonized Al Gore and advisor/author Naomi Wolf. Today is the true story of how the media screwed up the non-story of Al, Naomi, and the flesh-toned wardrobe. Check it out.
I HAVE A HEADACHE, YOU WARMONGERING BASTARD -- An anti-war group called The Lysistrata Project is urging women around the world to withhold sex from men unless the war is abandoned. The idea is taken from an Aristophanes play, Lysistrata, in which a group of women stage a 'sex boycott' against their husbands until the men end a war. Eventually, the men cave into the demand.

This modern version began in Denmark and is spreading to 56 countries, where the play will be read and women urged to withhold sex from their partners if he is pro-war.

No word on what men should do if their wife or girlfriend is pro-war.

Monday, March 03, 2003

MAKES YOU WANNA HOWL -- Nobody works harder to expose the follies, incompetencies, and downright mendacity of our 'liberal media' than The Daily Howler. Here, we are given a valuable history lesson in how a virulently anti-Gore press trashed him and author Naomi Wolf. Read it if you've got a strong stomach.
PROPAGANDA CHIEF QUITS -- Charlotte Beers, Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy and head of the project to sell America to angry Muslims has resigned for 'health reasons'. Translation: The job made her sick.
YOU DON'T KNOW DICK -- "If you're going to go in and try to topple Saddam Hussain, you have to go to Baghdad. Once you've got Baghdad, it's not clear what you will do with it. It's not clear what kind of government you would put in place of the one that's currently there now. Is it going to be a Shi'i regime, a Sunni regime or a Kurdish regime? Or one that tilts toward the Ba'athists, or one that tilts toward the Islamic fundamentalists? How much credibility is that government going to have if it's set up by the United States military when it's there? How long does the United States military have to stay to protect the people that sign on for the government, and what happens to it once we leave?"

Defense Secretary Dick Cheney
Quoted by The New York Times, 1991
(via Tapped)
GRAHAM ALLEGES BUSH COVERUP OF 9/11 -- Florida's senior senator, Democrat Bob Graham, is running for president and he says the major reason is his anger over what he calls a Bush cover-up related to pre-9/11 intelligence failures the senator blames on the Bush administration. Senator Graham has a credibility on this issue unmatched by any other Democrat, due to his chairmanship of the Senate Intelligence Committee in 2001-2002, which was widely praised as fair and bipartisan even by Republicans. It seems Senator Graham is through acting like a nice guy.

Graham says he became “outraged” by the intelligence and law-enforcement failures discovered by the inquiry—most of which, he charges, are still being suppressed by the Bush administration. The inquiry’s 400-page report can’t be publicly released because the administration won’t declassify key portions. Graham says the report documents far more miscues by the FBI and CIA than have been publicly revealed, as well as still unpursued leads pointing to “facilitation” of the hijackers by a “sovereign nation.” (Sources say the country is Saudi Arabia.) “There’s been a cover-up of this,” Graham said.

Senator Graham is the most conservative Democratic candidate for president in the race, but he has maximum cred on the biggest issue of the last two years and appears to be nursing a gigantic grudge against the Bush admin. All that leads this liberal to say: "Go, Bob, go!"
BEST PLACES TO LIVE -- Zurich, Vancouver, and Vienna are the most livable cities in the world according to the folks at Mercer Human Resource Consulting. This is the second straight year Zurich has come in first and the town fathers are sure to use this news to promote their new tourist slogan: "Zurich--Not just for fleeing Third World dictators anymore."

The worst cities in the world, according to the same report, are Brazzaville, Congo and Bangui, Central African Republic. Both cities have the dubious honor of finishing below Baghdad, which is expecting to be bombed flat any day now.

The highest-rated American city was San Francisco, which came in 20th, down two places from last year. New York City came in 44th and Los Angeles finished in 53rd place. I guess abundant gun violence and fast food restaurants don't impress the good folks at Mercer Consulting.

"In a related survey also by Mercer, Luxembourg scored the highest for personal safety, followed closely by Berne, Geneva, Helsinki, Singapore and Zurich.
Milan, Athens and Rome were judged the least safe cities in western Europe while Washington got the worst safety ranking in the United States."
BREAUX CRITICIZES BUSH TAX PLAN -- The White House could not have been pleased to learn that conservative Louisiana Democrat Senator John Breaux believes Mr Bush's 2003 tax cut plan needs 'a lot of modification.' Senator Breaux is a friend of Mr Bush's and the White House once considered him for a cabinet post. Senator Breaux also voted for Mr Bush's 2001 tax cut, but this time might be different. The White House has been relying on the support of conservative Democrats for its tax cuts, but Breax says, "“They have to do a lot of modification.” He predicted that getting a tax package would be “very difficult, very political.”

Speaking of the White House, Breaux says, “They really haven’t reached out since gaining the majority as much as they did the last time. They’ve been very slow on Medicare, healthcare, and the tax bill in reaching out to people who would normally be the kind of people that would work to reach a consensus,” he said.

I'm not exactly president of the John Breaux fan club, but it's always good to learn that a conservative Democrat has doubts about Mr Bush's rampant tax giveaways to the rich while the country sinks ever-deeper into budget deficits and major new expenditures--like the Iraq War and reconstruction--are planned, but unbudgeted. If the country is going to restore some fiscal sanity to its public policy, conservative Dems like Senator Breaux are going to have to get over their fear of Mr Bush and do what is right.

Sunday, March 02, 2003

YOU DON'T HAVE TO GO HOME, BUT YOU'VE GOT TO GET OUT OF HERE -- The Christian Science Monitor has an interesting story about Europeans and Africans of European descent fleeing Africa, sometimes only minutes ahead of an angry mob.

"It makes no sense," the Frenchman says. "We have only given to this country. We gave the Africans work and worked with them. It is not like Zimbabwe where the whites took all the land. Here we were accepted."

Hmmm, I doubt things are quite so simple, Jacques. I don't mean to suggest that the attacks on whites in Ivory Coast and Zimbabwe are justified. They are not. From Idi Amin to Robert Mugabe, there is a dishonorable tradition of African thug dictators scapegoating an ethnic minority--whether tribal, Indian, Chinese, or European--and encouraging violence against those people. Liberals should not shrink from calling such campaigns what they are: Crimes against humanity, just surely as the massacre of Islamic men and boys in Bosnia in 1995. Nevertheless, it is hard to avoid rolling the eyes when confronted with a European in Africa who doesn't know where all this African rage suddenly came from. Don't they get The History Channel over there?