Tuesday, November 30, 2004

November 29

Ohmygawd…What a fright. I work up this morning thinking I had become a REPUBLICAN! Jesus! That had to be wrong. Still, there seemed no denying it. It must have snuck up on me! I mean there it was, the proof;

  • I always objected when government stuck its nose in my personal business.
  • I always believed my faith is my personal business, that no one has a right to hassle me about it and that I have no right to hassle them about theirs.
  • I have always believed that deficits are the fiscal equivalent of cancer and should be treated accordingly.

See, no getting around it I must be a Republican.

Well, okay, maybe an
OLD Republican – the pre-Reagan kind. If you are young you can be excused if you have no memory of this creature. It’s a species of Republican (you might call it your father’s Republican Party) that began to go extinct in the 1980s. Before that a good Republican was someone who believed all three things on my list above.

Old Republicans were born with a healthy suspicion of government. They knew that once we put a handful of mortals in charge of the affairs of other mortals bad things happen in their heads and their hearts and that from that day forward they need to be watched like foxes hanging around a chicken coup.

Consequently they worked to keep government only as large as necessary and as small as possible, reminding themselves regularly that “a government big enough to give you everything you want, is also big enough to take away everything you have.”

While most of them were church going folk, they also believed that matters of the soul were best left to ordained ministers not politicians. They believed government had no business meddling in the personal affairs of citizens. (Many of them even balked at many of the questions on National Census forms. Imagine how they would feel about the Patriot Act.)

Somewhere along the way the offspring of those Republicans underwent a radical metamorphous – a political genetic mutation of some sort. This prodigal progeny of old-school Republicans believe just the opposite of what their parents believed. Unlike Old Republicans, these folks are nosey. They believe that almost everything people do in private may be of interest to government. Say, for example, a fella in Fresno who wants to marry another fella in Fresno. Such a matter fixes the interest of Neo-Republicans. They worry about it. While most of them have never been within smelling distance of a farmyard, they like point to farmyards as their authority in such matters noting that guy animals don’t marry other guy animals. Therefore, this gay marriage thing requires a farmyard-type amendment to the nation’s founding document.

Neo-Republicans are also consumed with concerns over overt acts of democracy breaking out among the 50 states. Some state voters have been passing laws neo-conservatives believe could, if not stopped, lead to dancing. Some states have fallen for the sob stories of people with cancer, for example, allowing them to smoke pot to ease their pain and mediate the effects of chemotherapy -- when there are government approved drugs like Vioxx, that alive pain -- sometimes permanently.

In Oregon voters decided a person with terminal illness --- get this! -- can decide for himself or herself when they want to die and have their doctor help them out - literally. Neo-Republicans, like Ashcroft, were outraged by that and are insisting that such patients die like everyone else with such diseases has throughout history – in lingering misery -- unless of course, you are a sick or injured horse, in which case you can be shot.

Then there’s the burning issue of liquor through the mail – specifically mail order wine. Jesus, you would think that, if Republicans would be in favor of anything it would be commerce! But, Neo-Conservatives say, mail order wine is not commerce, it’s… well, it’s just plain wrong. (Ever wonder what happened to the temperance movement? Well, now you know.)

Today's neo-Republican believes in a level of government involvement in our lives that would give an Old Republican a stroke. (Check a book out of your town library... the FBI wants to know about it. "Explain to us again Farmer Jones exactly why you are so interested in reading up on nitrate fertilizer... huh?" )

I suspect that my attraction to venerable Old Republican dogma is not unique among Blue State voters. Over the past twenty years or so Democrats have gone through an almost mirror image conversion. It took Democrat Bill Clinton to pay off the Reagan deficit and create the nation’s first budget surpluses since Eisenhower. Today it’s mostly Democrats we find defending the First Amendment’s separation of church and state. Democrats stand as the last line of defense for a woman’s right to control her own reproductive processes. Neo-Republicans, on the other hand, believe (or profess to believe) that government must stand guard over every fertile citizen’s vagina. Imagine that! (No, wait! Imagining vaginas violates something else, I’m pretty sure. If not, it will soon,)

Then there’s the Neo-Republican’s concern over fetal stem cell research. They already have some laws against it and want more. Seems they are more concerned about the welfare of fertilized egg than the 12 million full-term American children who reportedly live in households that did not have enough food this year.

Just in: Swiss Reject Neo-Cons: Associated Press: Swiss voters overwhelmingly approved a law allowing stem cell research Sunday, rejecting a hard-line campaign that compared researchers to the Nazis' "angel of death," Dr. Josef Mengele.

So, you can see why I’m a bit confused. All this intrusion into our personal lives, a steady chipping away of the wall between secular government and religious beliefs. And, remember those imfamous “Tax and Spend Liberals?” They have been replaced at the public trough by Borrow and Spend Neo-Republicans. The GOP, which had once embodied a Scottish-level obsession with balancing budgets has become a party that preaches, “deficits don’t matter,” (Dick Cheney 2003.)

In less than four years these mutant Republicans have been borrowing money like college kids with their first credit card. So far they have added over $2 trillion to the national credit card and there’s no end in sight. Today we learn that President Bush intends to pay for his idea to privatize a portion of Social Security by borrowing another $2 trillion, or so. That would boost the total national debt to something just over $10 trillion dollars. (Oh, and let’s not forget our credit card war in Iraq. That little puppy is running up the card by about $5 billion a month.)

If there are any Old Republicans still alive and in hiding, I have news for you.. the Neo-cons have hijacked your party the same way the Taliban hijacked Islam. Maybe you should think about getting it back… if you dare.

On the other hand, I hate the old Democratic Party -- that pack of poverty pimps who got and held power by pandering to every loser they could register to vote, fostering and enforcing the philosophy of victimology rather than independence. They also pretended to be advocates for workers while snuggling up to corrupt union bosses who routinely sold their members down the river. And, they really were tax and spenders too. Still there is a lot about post-Clinton Democrats that I like; balanced budgets, a less arrogant foreign policy, separation of religion and government.

Okay, I think I have figured it out.. I am a Republicrat – a mix of Old Republican and New Democrat.

Whew! Glad to settle that. Now I just have to figure out how to vote Republicrat?

Monday, November 29, 2004

November 28

Chasing Los Voto -- Politics Trumps Protection
Have you been trying to sort out just what the hell happened to the intelligence reform legislation? It looked like a slam-dunk until Saturday when it suddenly went down in flames. The reason the legislation stalled, we were told, is because of two specific issues in the bill – one real, one phony.

The 9/11 families have skillfully made the intelligence reform bill a hot potato and no one wanted to be seen as playing politics with the issue. But the Pentagon, which currently controls over 80% of the annual $40 billion intel budget, wanted the measure watered down. Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld is a wizard at palace politics. (Those who work with him call him “the quiet little man with very sharp elbows.) Rumsfeld’s forces cooked up the phony issue: who was going to control intelligence gathering satellites, the newly created National Intelligence Director (NID,) or the Pentagon. Rummy knows he can’t stop the switch of much of the DODs intel budget to the new NID, but by throwing in this last minute monkey wrench he will exact some concessions. Rep. Duncan Hunter, chairman of the House Arms Services Committee, carried the ball for Rumsfeld on this issue.

The real issue was the one raised by House Judiciary Chairman, Rep. James Sensenbrenner, (R.Wis) and it deserves more respect than it has been getting. Sensenbrenner put a rule into the House version of the bill that would have standardized state drivers license rules across the nation and prohibited the issuance of drivers licenses to illegal aliens. Sensenbrenner's amendments were quietly removed from the Senate's version of the bill -- and Sensenbrenner threw a fit about it.

So what’s the deal? Who’s doing whom here and why?

By Jerry Kammer

November 22, 2004 WASHINGTON – Republican strategist Grover Norquist thinks acceptance of illegal immigration would boost his party and the U.S. economy. (Full Story)

Yes amigos, it's all about the growing power of the Hispanic vote. Both Dems and Repubs see Hispanics as THE key voting block in future elections. And, they appear willing to do whatever it takes to court their favor -- even risk our lives.

Here in California where I live the issue of who should be allowed to get a drivers license cost our last governor his job. Democrat Gray Davis first opposed giving illegals driver’s licenses on the grounds that doing so would create a security threat. He correctly noted then that a drivers license often serves as the cornerstone document needed to cre
ate a complete false identity.

Later, when faced with a voter recall, Davis did a shameless 180 on the issue, backing the issuance of drivers licenses to illegals, in the hope he get enough Hispanic votes to save his wishy washy butt. It didn’t work.

This time it took a politician from a state that’s still so white it glows in the dark to confront the drivers license issue for what it really is – a national security issue. Wisconsin’s Sensenbrenner believes, as does anyone who considers the matter honestly, that its nuts to issue an official state document, one so central to the way we conduct our lives in this country, to someone who’s snuck into the country illegally. Duh.

We show our drivers license to cash checks, and as photo ID to board airplanes. Why? -- Because the info on the license is supposed to be certified as reliable by state authorities.. It’s supposed to prove we are who we say we are and live where we say we live. Meanwhile, nothing an illegal alien tells the DMV can be assumed to be true. After all, why would an illegal alien provide a real address? So the INS could more easily track them down and deport them? Double duh!

The intel reform bill stalled because neither Republicans nor Democrats in the Senate had the balls to back Sensenbrenner’s driver’s licenses restriction. It’s pure, shameless, unadulterated politics -- pandering for Hispanic votes. We can only hope that Hispanic-American voters are smart enough to see that their security is at stake here too. Maybe they do have a relative who is here illegally and can sympathize with the difficulties illegals face. Compelling –tear-jerkingly compelling – tales can be told of countless illegals struggling to make it in El Norte. But, none of those stories has anything to do with divers licenses, but rather their illegal status.

When a politician uses the term “illegal alien,” in the context of this discussion, what they mean is Mexican aliens. But some of the 9/11 hijackers were illegal aliens too. Illegal aliens come in all flavors, not just one. Any bending of the rules for one flavor of illegal alien benefits them all. Is that really what we want right now? Why on earth would anyone want to provide an illegal alien any piece of government-sanctified paperwork that could be used to facilitate their movement around the country?

So, both parties need to get real about reforming our immigration laws and enforcement otherwise any changes they make in our national intelligence infrastructure will have been a waste of time.

But pandering is a hard habit to break. In California those yearning for Hispanic votes revived the drivers licenses for illegals issue after Arnold took over hoping he would feel the pressure and join their pander-party. And, here is where the hypocrisy of glowed through all the rhetoric. Gov. Arnold said he was willing to sign the bill, but only if the licenses issued bore a mark indicating that the bearer was an undocumented alien, not a citizen. The idea was that police might want to know that if the subject were stopped and airlines would like to know when the license was presented for a ticket. And, that it would be a check on fraud if the bearer tried to use the license to get false documentation of citizenship. But the bill’s backers refused and the measure died.. again. Now ask yourself; why would they object to such a reasonable restriction?

Hispanics are indeed becoming a voting powerhouse. But, politicians chasing those votes by whoring for this drivers license issue need to ask themselves just how much they are willing to risk for a handful of votes. Issuing drivers licenses to illegals would only make an already out of control immigration situation worse.

The absurdity of it really comes home whenever I, a genuine, stamped and USDA certified US citizen find myself being subjected to a near strip search whenever I fly someplace. Meanwhile a few hundred miles south of where my shoes are being X-rayed illegals just stroll right into the country, carrying who knows what, with who knows what intentions. Sure, the vast majority are simply seeking a better life. But it only took a couple of dozen illegals to kill a several of thousand of us three years ago.

So, I am forced to tip my hat to a Republican – (Ouch! That hurt!). But Sensenbrenner happens to be right. Even those of you prefer to believe he’s just a Wisconsin-honky-cheesehead who hates Mexicans, have to admit he’s right on the issue. We should not provide documents to undocumented (illegal) aliens – of any flavor.

And, helllooo Democrats.. wonder why you are hemorrhaging support in America and the south? This is one of the reasons. You guys have to stop pandering to illegal Mexicans with promises of amnesty and free and easy access to social services.

Republicans.. you guys need to agree to laws that really do crack down on employers who hire illegal aliens since it's the jobs that attract them in the first place. Employers who hire illegals are adding and abetting in a crime. Got it? You Republicans are, after all, the party of values... right? Is obeying the law one of them?

So, okay, both parties… stop selling our security for votes -- anyone’s votes. Ask Gray Davis what happens when you do. He now has nothing but time on his hands to explain.

A Cry For a Free Press
Yesterday's column struck a nerve. (Click here to read it) I got so many good letters about the pathetic White House press corps that I want to share some of the comments:

Henry wrote:
You know as well as I do that the White House reporters will never, never challenge Bush. He set those rules at his first press conference. He scared the crap out of them and the ground rules were established. Only Helen Thomas challenged him and she was relegated to the back of the hall near the door Reporters are given the questions to ask, and to step out of line meets with punishment. Now what reporter is going to stand up to that. He or she would be drummed out of the room. So much for democracy. Cry for us Argentina. We are lower than third world now. Sad, Sad, Sad. I have told my Republicans friends, "Hang on to your wallets and your Bibles, you're going to need them both!"
Kurt wrote:
How we all yearn for the exchange you have imagined. But, really, don't all those stenographers in the WH Press Corps work for giant corporations whose primary businesses are not journalism? I would not expect any TV news personalities to ask real questions. It will be left to the print media if they can find their gonads, and then it'll be left up to the TV nitwits to broadcast the exchange because who the hell reads news papers nowadays? TV is the choke point for honest reporting and it is unlikely that they will allow us to witness anything like you described.

Erik wrote:
You are professional journalists. If you can't ask these questions - OUT LOUD - who can? Where is this blackout coming from? I will never have the opportunity to have my questions about my government answered in front of the entire world. Journalists are supposed to do it for me. If we are talking about money, profit, "selling sexy news", then fine...who do I make the check out to? Point me and others like me in the direction of the nearest pen jockey with a White House press pass and I'll PAY them to ask the hard questions. Does that solve the problem? No? If it's not money (capitalism...right?) then what?

Be the hero If someone is telling you to report this and not that - report it - that's news too! Loose your job? Sell your story to your former competitors! I can't believe I as an American have to go to other countries news organizations to find out what is happening in the world. It is wrong to tell a lie. I don't want to be the only voice in my child’s life telling him so. Fix it.
John wrote:
This WW2 Navy Combat Vet, who lost a brother in action 1944 Europe is so disgusted with this demoralized administration and the news media that looks the other way. Your right about the press conference, the only person who got it right was Helen Thomas, and Smirky can’t stand to have her near. I wish you could get to question the so called Commander in Chief, and when he says no follow-up, have a sign ready to hold up for him to look at, suggest that to your friends in the press corps.
Be readin ya , Ole Vet

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Novembert 23, 2004

To: White House Press Corps
From: The rest of us.

Which is more likely to affect the quality of our lives, terrorism or the economy?

The chances of us personally becoming a victim of a terrorist attack rank right up there statistically with getting hit by lightening –twice – on the same day – while taking a bubble bath in a tin bucket in your backyard while waving a golf club over your head.. Forget about terrorism, it’s the economy that will determine if you live a good or crappy life during the next decade or so.

If that’s so -- and it is -- why then haven't you.. the media -- jumped on administration for its catastrophically ruinous economic policies? I know it’s not as sexy as the Scott Peterson trail or a big an adrenalin rush as a breathless report from embedded reporters in Iraq.. but everything this country does and needs to do ultimately hinges on its economic health. And this administration has given the US economy the fiscal equivalent of AIDS. Our green cell count is way down and our red cell is way up. We are weak and getting weaker. Nevertheless the administration continues to drive us deeper and deeper into debt, with no plan to pay it back, or curb new borrowing and spending.

We are heading for a fiscal train wreck of enormous proportions. A mess so big and expensive it will cripple the US as world power in ways that bin Laden could only dream of causing.

So, where is the media on that story?

This week it took a Colombian journalist to pop the only relevant question to President Bush -- the kind of question that should dominate every White House news conference. Bush was busy yesterday spreading around more borrowed money, this time promising to continue US financing for Columbia’s war on drugs at the tune of about $3 billion a year. The Columbian reporter asked the President just how he could make such a promise at a time when he was faced with record budget deficits at home? (Me to the US press corps on the trip: DUH!)

Bush, of course, blew the question off by replying in his mangled TexMex Spanish, “By working very hard.” He then smirked THAT smirk before moving on.

I suggest that that question, and questions like it, should become a US media obsession. Questions like that should be asked, and asked, and asked and asked, every time the President or his surrogates start slinging around promises to fix Social Security, reform Medicare, wage an international war against terrorism and rebuild the US military.

Here’s the kind of news conference the President should face here at home every time he mentions spending:

Journo: “Mr. President, how are you planning on paying for that?”

Prez: “We are not going to raise taxes, I can tell you that! (Look around ….smirk) “We are going to continue policies that free business to grow.. so that we can grow the economy. That’s how.”

Journo: Follow up please Mr. President. But, exactly how will you do that? You already cut taxes by nearly $2 trillion dollars and the only thing that grew was the deficit. Do you have a new plan? And if so, what is it?

Prez: (Frown, shuffle notes… muster another smirk.. revert to talking points) “When I took office four years ago we were already in recession and my tax cuts….”

Journo: Excuse me Mr. President. That was not what I asked. I want to know how you intend to cut the deficit in half as you promised during the campaign, and still come up with the $2 trillion it would take to privatize a portion of Social Security and….

Prez: Ah, excuse me.. but I think you already had your follow up. Next question.. Oh, wait.. I want to remind you we have a new rule… no follow-ups. Okay.. you, the guy from CBS… how’s Dan…(smirk…chuckle)

Journo #2: Dan’s fine Mr. President... Picking up from where my colleague left off… in the coming year you increasing spending on the Dept. of Education to $56.6 billion, the National Institute of Health to $28.4 billion and kick up foreign aid to $19.4 billion. How are you going to pay for all that without either borrowing more money, raising taxes or both -- and cut the deficit in half?

Prez: (Shake head and look disappointed.)You don’t understand how it works (smirk.. look around.. smirk) Taxes strangle business… (pronounce “taxes” the way a six year old would pronounce “puss.”) taxes cripple growth. I want growth. I will only support policies that promote growth.

Journo #2: But Mr. Pres…..I ...

Prez: No, no… no follow-ups.. . remember? ….just said that…..a moment ago. See, you folks are bad listeners. (smirk at Journo #2) Bad listeners. Next question.. over there.. the lady in the red dress.. you look lovely today. How did you get mixed up with this crowd? (chuckle,.. look around)

Journo #3: Mr. Thank you Mr. President, but we are all still very unclear on just how you plan to fund all these initiatives and programs without either raising taxes or cutting spending to the bone. Our people have tried to figure it out on our own but the numbers don’t add up any way we work them.

Prez: (Looking annoyed) Maybe you’re using that liberal new math or maybe you need to invest in a conservative calculator. Doesn’t anyone have a question about Iraq? I mean…we are about to have that nation’s first free elections and the press should be reporting the significance of that. Good, yes, over there.. little brown guy.

Journo #4: Operations in Iraq have cost American taxpayers nearly $200 billion already and continue to run at about $5 billion a month. How can the US afford that level of expenditure without a tax increase or massive program cuts?

Prez: Tax increases. That’s the liberal solution to every problem. Raise taxes. Tax and spend. Tax and spend.

Journo #5: But, sir, just explain your plan. Answer that question and then we can move on to the elections in Iraq. But you have not answered that question yet. Tell the American people – exactly how do you plan to cut the deficit in half AND pay for all this other stuff you promised during the campaign? Sir, we are waiting for an answer. And if we don’t get it at this news conference we will begin the next one with the same question.. until we get an answer where the numbers add up. Sir?

There! That’s how every news conference should go until the press gets answers that add up. The truth of course, is devastating, which is why it’s avoided at all cost. It’s the media’s job to expose the truth, not simply to parrot administration policies that can be easily exposed as false.

To encourage the administration to come clean with us and itself, the media should also run prime time reports produced by economic investigative journalists that layout in lay person’s language exactly what’s going on and where it will take us, as a nation, if we continue on the current path. If the administration objects, fine, then maybe they will stop shucking and jiving and present a case that makes economic sense when subjected to analysis.

Yo! White House journalists – listen up. Don’t you think it’s time to wipe that smirk off the president’s face when he talks about taxes and spending and Social Security? Start asking the hard questions:

  • What’s it going to cost?
  • Where are you going to get the money to pay for it?
  • Cut programs? Which? How much? When?
  • Spend now pay later? But you said you were going cut the deficit, not grow it?
  • Low interest rates will stimulate business growth? But deficits raise interest rates? So how can you be running up deficits and still claim your programs will keep interest rates low?
  • You will not raise taxes. You will not cut important programs. You will not withdraw from Iraq. How will you pay for all this?
  • How, how.. how… damn it, HOW ????
Demand real answers. Don't stand for the usual supply side dogma. Demand the kind of answers that can be checked and assumptions verified. Remember Reagan: "Trust, but verify." Or Bush's own "facts are stubborn things." So demand facts and be stubborn about it.

And, if the president dodges a question and outlaws follow ups, then agree between yourselves that the next reporter will pick the question up, and then the next and the next and so on until Bush runs out of canned talking points and either answers the question or storms off the stage in a huff.

This administration snookered the media on Iraq’s WMD. Now they are snookering you again on domestic economic policy. So get with it White House press corps. We want answers that add up -- or liars exposed.

That’s your job… in case you forgot.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

November 22

Speaking Right
You already know about the seven dirty words people can’t say on the air. Well, now there is an eight --- at least in Chapel Hill, NC. The latest word to offend the religious right is, ironically, “rights.” Wait, I’m not kidding. I wish I were.

Last week radio station WUNC informed IPAS, a Chapel Hill-based international women's rights health organization, that it could no longer use the phrase "reproductive rights" in the group's on-air announcement. Why? -- Because it was offending some of its religious right listeners. The station said that the term could be interpreted as advocating “a particular political position.” (Can you guess which?)

IPAS was told that if it wanted its ads to run on the station it had to change the term to "reproductive health."

The religious right knows that words matter because they define words ultimately define the terms of debate. They right has, after all, defined itself as “the culture of life,” a claim that infers those who oppose them must then be the “culture of death.” As nonsensical as that may be, it works.

Words matter and Madison Ave. has nothing on the religious right when it comes to wielding an Orwellian Word Sword. The WUNC action was another successful skirmish in the right’s war against reproductive rights. Their intent here is clear. If reproductive health services – including abortion – are not “rights” then why should they protected by the courts?
But their victory at WUNC was small fry compared to their recent victory at ABC-TV news. After the election ABC news anchor, Peter Jennings, discussing the role played by the religious right in the election said, “Evangelicals, which have unfortunately been described in the past as the “religious right”….”

“Unfortunately?” What the hell? They are religious. And they are politically right of center. So, what exactly is it about the term “religious right” that was “unfortunate?”
Well, it’s become a bit shopworn – one might say. The religious right’s image has suffered in the public mind by the buffoonery of its own leaders and members. The term has become associated with photos of sport stadiums filled with biblically lobotomized Promise Keepers, for example, eyes shut, swaying back and forth with palms to the heavens, praising the lord as they take the pledge to stop beating and cheating on their wives. And the religious right’s image has been tarnished by its own leaders, like Pat Robertson and Bob Jones, who routinely make fools of themselves and their movement by issuing Christian fatwas so inane they would make the most radical Mullah blush.

A Reader Offers a Modest Proposal
A Rrevised Defense of Marriage Amendment:

Marriage shall be between one man and one woman, one time.
Let's get real. Let's defend marriage.

- If marriage is "for the children", it should include clauses that terminate childless marriages (perhaps with a dual executions in Texas?).
- Divorce must be outlawed. (Too bad Rush Limbaugh is on - what? - divorce number three? )

So take a note if you are in the media.. there are no “reproductive rights.” And the religious right now wants to be referred to as “evangelicals.” Got it? Peter Jennings did. Got it? The word police will be listening.

Election Deniers Rage
I lost some readers last week when I wrote that those who are consumed with the belief that the Kerry did not lose the election but that the Bushies stole it, should get a life. (see Letters.) My point was the Dems lost and that their time and energy would be better spent fixing the reasons why more people went red than circulating voter fraud conspiracy theories on the Internet. Living in denial is never useful.

Some very smart folks have been digging through the voter data and, while there was (as there always is) fraud and mistakes during November’s voting, nothing has surfaced yet that would change the result. The fact is that Dems lost ground across the board.

Bush carried 97 of the nation's 100 fastest-growing counties, most of them so-called "exurban" communities in what had been rural farming communities. In these younger, middleclass communities Bush racked up a 1.72 million vote advantage over Democrat John F. Kerry – according to a study conducted – not by FOX or the Washington Times, but by the New York Times.

Get over it you guys. We lost. Badly. And unless you want to lose again in the mid-term elections now less than 24 months away, we need to clean house at the DNC and build a fresh, aggressive, gutsy, street-fighting, bar room brawling, labor organizing Democratic Party. We need to take names of those in the party who just don’t get that… and throw them out.

If the DNC wants to send us a message.. that they do get it.. they can begin by naming Howard Dean as the party’s new chairman. We will see. We are waiting, and watching, and taking names.

Borrower Meets Creditors.. Hilarity Ensues
President Bush got a wake up call from some of his biggest creditors this weekend at the APEC annual summit of 21 leaders of Pacific Rim nations. They wanted to know just what he was going to do about the mushrooming U.S. deficits. That’s their money, after all, and they wanted to know just how he intended paying them back, and when.

Our creditors are getting a little nervous, and with good reason. As our deficits go up, the dollar goes down… way down and falling. Since these creditors hold IOU’s in the form of US bonds they are starting to lose money on the deal. To calm their nerves Bush repeated his campaign promise to cut the deficit in half in four years.

Right. Save that pick up line for corn-fed voters in Iowa. The men and women at the APEC conference know better. They understand that there is no way Bush will be able to cut the deficit in half during his second term. Because, there’s only one way to do it – raise taxes. And, since, in Bush’s mind, raising taxes right up there with child molestation, it’s just not going to happen.

So the world’s economic “ecology” moves along reacting on its own to U.S. trade and budget deficits without regard to the political agendas. The price of oil is back up – poking once again at $50 a barrel and all stock market indicators are dropping like rocks as it becomes clear that Bush’s economic policies will remain unchanged.

So, get ready for another Supplyside hangover. The last time a president went on a binge like this was when Ronald Reagan cut taxes and then went of a credit-fueled defense-spending spree. It took twelve years, a big tax increase by George H. Bush and further tax increases by Bill Clinton to pay that debt down to manageable levels. Bush the Younger set our fiscal house back a quarter century in his first four years in office. He now has us mortgaged up to our national jawbones -- and the repo man is calling.

Meanwhile, In Iraq
Deficit or no deficit, senior U.S. military commanders in Iraq said this weekend that they will be asking for more troops in the near future. There are currently roughly 138,000, US troops there now. War is expensive and we are fighting that one on borrowed money.. $146 billion so far. How’s that for a credit card balance? (See http://costofwar.com/ )

Monday, November 22, 2004

November 21

Update: Nov. 20
From the CalTech Report Issued This Morning

Despite Internet-circulated speculation that Bush's victory was somehow rigged, the incumbent's clear margin in the popular vote is much wider than any of the problems reported to date -- voting technology failures, problems with provisional ballots or partisan shenanigans.

"We conclude that there is no evidence, based on exit polls, that electronic voting machines were used to steal the election for President Bush," researchers at the California Institute of Technology and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology said in a report based on early unofficial returns in Florida.

"Nationwide it looks like, regardless of the type of voting machines used, Bush was getting a faster mobilization of voters in traditionally Democratic areas than were the Democrats," said Charles Stewart III, a political science professor at MIT who specializes in American politics and research methodology.

Stewart said any Florida discrepancies between historic patterns and the Nov. 2 vote might be explained by nationwide trends -- for example, while Republicans easily won many rural and suburban areas, they also made impressive gains in urban areas.

Nov. 19
Election Deniers
My first order of business today is to have a word with the folks who keep sending me hand wringing emails explaining how we did not lose the election – we was robbed! There is, they huff, evidence of a massive GOP conspiracy to steal the election.

If I were Karl Rove I would do whatever I could to encourage just that kind of paranoia. I would spend a part of every morning emailing anonymous tips of vote fraud to the media. Because, the more Democrats believe they really won the better. After all, if you believe you didn’t lose but actually won, why look for the real reasons you lost?

Yes there were screw-ups and “irregularities” on Nov. 2, 2004 – as there have been in every election in US history. Remember Lyndon Johnson? Every permanent resident of a certain Texas cemetery voted for him once. And history has recorded that it was the Chicago Mafia that delivered Illinois for JFK.

I am not excusing vote fraud. I am just saying it’s nothing new. Have any US elections really been “stolen?” You bet -- the 2000 election. That election was lost not by counting fraudulent votes, but by not counting legal votes.

But this election was not stolen it was lost. Lost, lost, lost. Besides, massive voter fraud would have been obvious.

No you say, the race was razor close, and so they only had to steal a small number of votes to change the outcome. Ah, now you are on to something. The closeness of the race is a fact. Close -- so close that a handful of “stolen” votes could swing the result. So, instead of obsessing over the past election, turn your attentions to the next one. Do you want the next election to be that close too? If so continue wasting your time chasing phantom 2004 votes.

I’m not asking election deniers to get over it, just to get with it. If you folks keep chasing down vote fraud stories I can guarantee that you will keep discovering just enough “irregularities” to keep you busy for the next four years. What you will not find are solutions to what plagues the Democratic Party – why the margins were razor thin in the first place. And that will be just dandy with Karl Rove.

(Memo from Anonymous: Psssst… Have you checked out the Diebold machine on the Grassy Knoll yet? )

Debt Death Spiral
Ben “a penny saved” Franklin must have done calisthenics in his grave yesterday when the GOP-controlled House raised the national debt ceiling by a whopping $800 billion. That brings our national credit card debt – (YOUR debt) to a cerebral hemorrhage popping $8.18 trillion.

Trillion.. has a science fiction-ish ring to it. Eight trillion - a figure so expedously calafrafic it boggles attempts to get the average mind around it. Nevertheless, it’s real money and we owe every cent of it to somebody. So, you ask, just who the hell is lending Bush all this money?

China. That’s right China, and, to a lesser, but still large, extent, Japan. But the Chinese are have become the Saudi’s of Asia, thanks to liberal trade rules. The Chinese are lousy with dollars, which they had been investing in US bonds. But as the US budget deficit grows the dollar’s value sides, and as the dollar weakens confidence in it slides as well. The Chinese may be commies but they understand the relationship between capital and debt. They know that sooner or later US bonds they are holding are going to go down in value.. a process that has already begun. So they have stopped buying US bonds. (At the Sept. 9 bond auction China and Japan were no shows.)

China is not just shutting down its lending window to the US. During the first six months of this year Chinese businesses and private investors have dumped nearly $40 billion in dollar investments. The Chinese government itself is still sitting on just over half a trillion dollars in US debt and it is only a matter of time before they begin rolling that into either Yen or Euro bonds. The lack of interest in US bonds will force the US to pay higher and higher interest rates to attract foreign investors (lenders.) That in turn will result in higher consumer rates, a slide in stock prices as investors switch to bonds, higher interest rates will crater the real estate markets, which in turn will result in lower durable goods sales, which will result in layoffs… and so on -- the economic equivalent of a death spiral.

All this was a long-winded way of warning that over the next four years the US budget deficit – regardless of what Dick Cheney says – will matter. In fact, it will begin to matter more than anything else. Those of you old enough to remember ‘stagflation” will recognize what’s coming. Stagflation is when we have stagnant growth and rampant inflation. Stagflation hit in the late 1970s and early 1980s when Lyndon Johnson’s “guns and butter” Vietnam War policies came home to roost. Debt always comes home to roost.

The bottom line is debt always matters. It matters to families, companies and countries. Sooner or later the piper has to be paid. That day will arrive for the US during this Bush term as China, Japan and the EU mover away from the US dollar. But, don’t take too much satisfaction in the idea that Bush will finally have to confront failure. Reaganite supplysiders still refuse to own up to the damage done by the Reagan deficits. Bill Clinton and Bob Rubin filled that hole. No, Bush will not pay the price, you will --- and your kids, and their kids.

What about North Korea and Iran’s nukes? We could threaten them, but we don’t have the money to follow through – and they know it. Reform Social Security and fund Medicare? Ditto.

Sorry, Uncle Sam, your credit card has been refused.

For the record:

US Gov. Debt as of 19 Nov 2004:
$ 7 , 4 4 8 , 8 1 7 , 7 1 3 , 5 8 8 . 9 2
The estimated population of the United States is 294,839,742
so each citizen's share of this debt is $25,263.95.

The National Debt has continued to increase an average of
$1.60 billion per day since September 30, 2003!

Friday, November 19, 2004

November 18, 2004

A Call to Arms

Yesterday Republicans went behind closed doors and changed the rules to allow House Majority Leader, Tom DeLay, to continue holding his leadership position if indicted for a crime. Just like that… batta bing, batta bang. The GOP Mob family now rules unchallenged.

The Election Day Massacre has left the other family in hiding and disarray. What will happen now? Do the Dems even have among them the political equivalent of Michael Corleone – someone who can rally this moribund family? Someone who can both unite that factitious family and begin making inroads into the GOP’s turf as well?

If yesterday is any indication then no such person has yet stepped forward. The Dems are still trying to figure out whom to name as their new leader. Howard “Sonny” Dean would be a bold choice -- a bit too bold for the limp-wrist wing of the family that believes it can kumbaya it’s way back to power.

Okay, enough with the Mob metaphors. But, you have to admit they fit the situation. Republicans now have a virtual lock on the political neighborhood and the Democrats seem powerless to do a thing about it. That leaves half of us out here wondering where to invest our money, time and hopes. Do we hang in with the Dems hoping they will grow backbones and start fighting back? Or do we look elsewhere for new faces, new policies – a new party? The next six months will answer that question.

The GOP’s “values voters” honestly believe they represent the “real America.” There is only one way to change that belief – daily TV news images of thousands of we "other American’s" in the street, marching for a different set of values. Only that can convince the values folks that, right or wrong, they must share this country with the rest of us. Right now they believe we are a wacky minority who must either accept their views or shut up and go away. We need to make sure we do just the opposite.

If the Democrats want my support – and I suspect I speak for millions of others – here’s what they need to do – and SOON!

1) Draw lines in the sand on key issues – like Supreme Court appointments – and then fight tooth and nail to defend those lines.. Forget about decorum. Fight like rabid dogs. The GOP jettisoned the gentlemanly hobbles of congressional decorum at the start of the Clinton administration. So fight clean or, if you must, fight dirty… but damn it fight! Fight on the floor of the House. Fight on the floor of the Senate. Fight in the courts.

2) And, FIGHT IN THE STREETS. Yes, the streets. Remember the streets? That’s were some of you may recall we fought when Johnson and Nixon decided they could do whatever the hell they wanted too. Reconnect with the street. Reconnect with us.

3) Let us help. A hundred members of congress marching in the streets may grab some headlines but it won’t change policy. You need us – lots of us. So make sure your covey of 20-something congressional staffers spend less time strutting around DC nightspots and playing solitaire on their Blackberry’s and more organizing at the grassroots, back home, on the street. That way the next time you are on the floor fighting for an issue there can be thousands of people in the street putting a big-ass exclamation mark on the point you are making.

4) Renew your relationship with labor. Both the Democratic Party and organized labor have spent the last forty years wallowing in self-indulgence, self-preservation and corruption. Knock it off. We need both of you. Labor is getting screwed blue. If there were ever a time for a strong alliance between labor and the Democratic Party it’s now -- but for real. If the unions continue as corrupt, deal making, quislings who sell out their members, then their members need to clean house.. and fast – (Porter Goss can tell you how it’s done.) Then Democrats need to produce a genuine pro-labor agenda – one that means something to workingmen and women. A living minimum wage, health coverage, secure pensions, trade agreements that take into account the same environmental, health and safety standards American companies have to comply with. And then FIGHT for that agenda. Fight, fight, goddamn it FIGHT!

5) Call the GOP’s bluff on wedge “values” issues. As long as they go unchallenged on issues like abortion, prayer in public schools, religious symbols in government buildings and fetal stem cell research the longer they will continue beating us. We need to stop trying to reason with the “values voters” and start SHOWING them. Show them that the people they voted for have no intention whatsoever of delivering on their promises. As I wrote earlier, introduce two bills immediately in January. One bill would ban abortions.. all of them. The other would allow prayers in schools and religious symbols in government buildings. The GOP would try to block debate on the bills because a real debated on the floor would reveal the inherent complications in what values voters assume are simple, no brainer, slam dunk values issues. Ban abortion? How do they plan to enforce a ban? Insist they explain. Arrest doctors? Arrest women? How? Come on you pious, pontificating, puffed up moralists.. how you gonna enforce that ban? The day of the debate on religious icons make sure your staffers have organized groups around the country to show up at their courthouses with large statues of various religious/mythological/magical entities and insist they be displayed in the lobby. A statue of Satan… why not.. that would be one of those pesky "complications" the religious right hasn't quite come to understand yet so, let's give them a hand.
So there’s the outline of a battle plan for the Dems. The GOP won the last election because they understand politics is not a game of chess – but war. The GOP transformed itself into revolutionary guerilla patriots to the Democrats, marching-in-formation-Red Coats and mowed them down. “Hey, that’s not fair,” Democrats, whined as GOP guerillas trashed the Clinton presidency. “You can’t do that. That’s dirty fighting,” they whimpered when Bush henchmen smeared Vietnam war hero Max Cleland. And, one by one the Dems fell, dead or wounded.

The GOP believes this is a game played for keeps, because the stakes are as real as they get in life. GOP soldiers shoot from the bushes. Democrats shoot from the lip.

Enough talk boys and girls of the Democratic Party. If you want us to follow you then damn it, get your whipped butts out of hiding and back out into the streets ready to fight – fight, for us and with us. We are out here milling around. Either lead or we will find people who will.


Thursday, November 18, 2004

News For Real

Re-Double Standard Watch
Remember the outrage? The moral indignation flowed like hot lava. How could he do it? He was unfit to serve and had to be impeached. How could he serve the people now that we knew he was involved in a crime?

Republicans spent most of the Clinton Presidency raging about one imagined crime or another until they finally got their hooks into one they thought would drive a stake into the percieved Anti-Christ’s heart – a lie about his sex life. (Actually it may have said more about a lack of a sex life – but that’s another matter.)

Anyway, Clinton was -- Republicans puffed -- clearly unfit for office and had to be impeached and PDQ.

Fast forward six years and lookie here… the shoe is on the other foot. Now it’s one of their own with his pecker stuck in a judicial grinder. House Majority Leader, Tom DeLay, is under investigation in Texas for running a political money laundering operation. A Texas grand jury in September indicted three of DeLay's political associates on charges of using a political action committee to illegally collect corporate donations and funnel them to Texas legislative races.

The group, Texans for a Republican Majority Political Action Committee, was created by DeLay for just this purpose. Indications are that DeLay’s former associates are in no mood to take the fall for him and are trying to cut a deal. That bodes ill for DeLay since he would be the most valuable chip they have to trade.

This created a problem for the House GOP majority – which largely owes its majority status to Tom DeLay and his gerrymandering ways. So, what to do if he gets indicted? The current rules require he step down immediately. That would just dandy if DeLay were a high-ranking Dem but not their Tom. Not “The Hammer.” The man who said, "We all need to understand that you cannot stand up for America--you need to kneel down for America and stand up to God!"

So, today House Republicans will kneel down for Tom Delay and try to change that now troublesome rule. DeLay would not have step down if indicted by any state authorities and the House would reserve the right to waive the rule later that will still require he step down if indicted by federal authorities.

My, my, my – where is the moral indignation of old? Is this the party that swept the election thanks to Christian right and other voters concerned about “values?”

Memo to Values Voters: You’ve been suckered… again.

Binge and Purge
When Nixon’s thugs got caught red handed rummaging through Democratic campaign offices at the Watergate, his first instinct was to put the blame on the CIA. George W. Bush tried the same dodge when it we all discovered there were no WMD’s in Iraq after all. The CIA was not amused and began its own campaign to redistribut
e the blame more evenly. The White House was not amused and, with four more years under its belt, has begun a Stalin-like purge of the CIA headed by former GOP Rep. Porter Goss.

Now, I am no particular fan of the CIA. I have written too many stories over the years detailing that agency's often Keystone Cop quality operations. But what is happening over there now is truly troubling. One of the most important things we learned from the 9/11 and Iraq WMD experiences is that when an intelligence agency is politicized it becomes an unreliable source of intelligence.

With heads rolling faster at the CIA than Iraq Goss has cleaned house. And, with the blood of now gone veteran agents still fresh on his office carpet Goss warned those remaining that, unless they want to join the ranks of martyrs, they better tow the line.
"As agency employees we do not identify with, support or champion opposition to the administration or its policies," Goss wrote in the memorandum, which was circulated to CIA employees late on Monday. He said in the document that he was seeking "to clarify beyond doubt the rules of the road."

Even as Goss neuters the CIA, Donald Rumsfeld over at Defense has been furiously working to build up the DODs own proprietary intelligence apparatus. All this is in direct opposition to all the key recommendations of the 9/11 Commission.. which Bush opposed to begin with and which he embraced before the election only after 9/11 families made avoiding it impossible. Now Bush is about to make the Commission’s work and recommendations irrelevant by gutting the CIA and moving intelligence to DOD.

If Democrats were still a party they would throw a public fit and stop this in its tracks. Don’t you think?

The Ungovernable
Some nationalities are simply ungovernable by anything less than a despot. Yugoslavia could not survive the death of strongman Tito. Iraq, as we are now learning, spun apart the instant Saddam’s police state apparatus ceased to exist. And, now we see the same in Palestine following Arafat’s demise.

In all three cases the populations are consumed with hatred for one another. Tribal passions and centuries of grudge settling always trump any attempts at creating harmonious, lasting social institutions.

Yugoslavia is no more. In its place are collection of enclaves that must be watched over by armed NATO troops or they immediately will start killing each other again over something that happened 300 years ago.

Iraq will eventually become three states - Kurdish, Sunni and Shiite. Iran will control the Shiite entity, Syria the Sunni and the Kurds will try to mind their own damn business and just hope Turkey lets them. And no amount of US blood or "free elections" will change that. Because, like the Serbs, Croats and Palestinians, the Iraqis suffer from a shared Arab persecution complex laced with clinical-level paranoia and an inability to "get over" anything. It's in their DNA.

So, to no ones surprise, yesterday two main Palestinian factions, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, announced they prefer fighting to building a stable homeland. Both said they would not take part in the Palestinian presidential election set for Jan. 9.

As has been said, the Palestinians never pass up and opportunity to pass up an opportunity.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

November 16, 2044

Double Standard Watch
The FDA is not exactly known as a Johnny-on-the-spot agency. “Slow” and “Careful” are its middle name. Slow to approve generic drugs that might cut into the profits of large pharmaceutical companies, and careful not to do or say anything that could hurt the sales of those company’s hot sellers. The bodies have to really pile up before the FDA pulls the plug on a popular drug.

Which is what made yesterday’s FDA announcement so unusual. The death of one woman last January prompted the FDA to issue a warning notice on the so-called abortion, or morning after, pill RU-486. The woman did not die as a direct cause of the medication but rather a secondary infection that set in afterward. It was only the second such case reported after using RU-486.

Compare that FDA response to its handling of Merck’s hot selling arthritis pill, Vioxx. Warnings on that pill have been flooding in from around the world for over two years, warnings the FDA ignored. The pill worked fine alleviating pain; especially for the estimated 27,000 users it killed. It seems Vioxx had some nasty side affects – heart attacks and strokes.

Why did it take so long for the FDA to pull the plug on Vioxx, even though it had hard proof the drug was killing thousands of people every year? And, conversely, why was it so quick to issue a warning on RU-486 based on two deaths not even directly connected to the drug?

Would money surprise you? Merck was a big contributor to GOP coffers, and they made sure they hired lobbyists with strong ties to the Bush camp. Meanwhile, RU-486 contributed nothing. The company that produces it is not even Am
erican. That company has been the target of anti-choice forces since the day RU-486 first hit the market. The anti-choice Christian right has had some limited success in curtailing the drug’s availability, even for medical research into the drug's other possible applications. Anti-choicers were temporarily successful in blocking the drug in the U.S., gaining a Food and Drug Administration order banned the import of RU 486 from 1989 until 1993. Opponents have also launched boycotts against Roussel-Uclaf, the drug-maker’s German parent company, Hoechst A.G., as well as their American affiliates, and have threatened to boycott any other pharmaceutical company that makes RU 486 available.

But, RU-486 is so safe and effective its use in the US has grown steadily. Then came George W. Bush’s reelection on the backs of the Christian Right and two weeks later the FDA issues its warning on RU-486.

Now, let’s see how the science works out on this. George always says he wants to see “the good science” before making tough decisions on such matters. So, let’s see.

  • Data Point One: Merck was pulling in around $2.5 billion a year from Vioxx sales.
  • Data Point Two: Merck shared some of this killer drug booty with the Bush campaign and other GOP candidates up for reelection. (In all drug companies pumped $13 million into various campaign coffers, two thirds of it going to Republicans.)
  • Data Point Three: The FDA knew for two years that there was hard data showing that Vioxx was killing some of its users, but did nothing.
  • Data Point Four. Once the body count reached 27,000 and became impossible to hide or deny any longer, the FDA ordered Merck to pull Vioxx off the market.
  • Data Point Five: The company that produces RU-486 is foreign and therefore not allowed by federal law to contribute to American campaigns.
  • Data Point Six: The Bush campaign and GOP has not, and never will, get a dime from RU-486 sales.
  • Data Point Seven: Unlike Vioxx, RU-486 is remarkably safe – safer than Vioxx, for sure and a lot safer than illegal abortions. Deaths following RU0486 use were 1 in every 200,000 compared to 1 in every 3000 illegal abortions.
You see what’s happening here? The FDA’s warning on RU-486 was a no-cost way of showing the religious right that their vote for Bush was not wasted. He is on their side.

He is one of them.

And he has only just begun to payoff for them.

More Ekkkkonomy
If the economy were a ship at sea the bilge pumps would be going full steam, and still be losing ground. Yesterday I talked about the skittish bond market and the plunging dollar. Today it’s the decrepit federal pension insurance system. An audit reveals that the Federal Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp hasn’t got enough money to guarantee a double latte at Starbucks. The fund, which is an insurance company backed by taxpayers, is a bit short -- $23.3 billion short to be precise.

The agency, created by Congress to guarantee that workers will receive their promised pensions even if the company backing them goes out of business, is out of business itself. The PBGC has lost over $10 billion a year for the last three years running. The agency has enough money in the bank to keep operating for about three more years; just about the time the Baby Boomers retire. Then what? Remember the S&L crisis? That one cost you $167 billion. This one should add close to another $100 billion to the national credit card debt.

Meanwhile, the first signs of inflation are creeping up on us. A huge jump in wholesale prices pushed stocks lower today as investors began to worry that the recent spate of high oil prices was here to stay and beginning to chip away at what was already a hollow shell of a recovery. The Producer Price Index (PPI) jumped 1.7 percent in October, the largest since January 1990.

Energy prices were blamed for the jump in the PPI. But just wait until the deficit forces interest rates up. That’s when the “fun” really begins.

When will that happen? One year. Write it down.

Bush Plus
If you liked the first Bush administration you should love the second one… and visa versa. All indications are that Bush insiders saw the November 2 vote as a green light to be themselves. No more namby-pamby moderate window-dressing like Colin Powell.
Condi Rice will move into Powell’s chair. Her No.2, Stephen Hadley will take her spot as National Security Advisor. This would keep in place the National Security apparatus that got us into Iraq. No one gets fired for making mistakes in government. A government job is the ultimate in affirmative action – and no, that’s not a racial crack. White, black, purple.. try to think of one government official fired by this administration for screwing up.

Right-wing nut, Richard Perle was pushing to have Wolfowitz take over Rice’s job. You remember, Wolfowitz was the guy that assured Congress before the war that Iraq’s oil would more than pay for the cost of the war and rebuilding. $200 billion US dollars later we are still waiting for that. Nevertheless, he did not get Rice’s job. The White House wants to save The Wolf to replace Rumsfeld when he leaves. That should come in a year or so. Rummy is waiting. He does not want to leave with the rabble. Rummy is like De Gaulle, he prefers grand entrances and grand exits.

During the election two thirds of GOP voters polled said they wanted to see big changes in a second Bush term. Pundits interpreted that to mean they wanted to see the compassionate conservative promised, but not delivered, during the first Bush term.

Well, the White House heard they wanted change all right -- just not the kind of change they thought they wanted.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

November 15, 2004

Monday Musings

The War Within
If you have been watching the battle progress lately you may be wondering which side to root for. Over the past couple of months it’s gotten pretty bloody and it’s getting harder and harder to ignore.

Oh, I’m not talking about Iraq. I’m referring to the war between the Bush administration and it’s own CIA.

The battle took a new turn last night when former top CIA official, Michael Scheuer, went on 60 Minutes and went public. Scheuer headed the CIA’s special bin Laden branch and was authorized early this year to release a book that trashed the US war on terrorism. The book was credited then only to an author identified as “Anonymous.” Last week he resigned the CIA, he said, so he could go public with his concerns about how this administration has botched the war on terrorism and the hunt for bin Laden. (Translation: Scheuer left his “official” CIA position so he could defend the CIA in public.)

Scheuer’s appearance coincided with other high-level (headline catching) CIA resignations. Deputy Director John E. McLaughlin, who had been acting director, announced his retirement Friday, saying it was a "purely personal decision." The Washington Post reported that Deputy Director of Operations Steven R. Kappes also submitted his resignation, but withdrew it for reconsideration over the weekend. Career CIA insiders are carefully orchestrating this whole thing, and if you believe otherwise, I have this bridge..

So, don’t look for any heroes on either side. This is not a war between one group with all the right solutions and another group with wrong solutions. This is a war between two political entities trying to shift blame for monumental failures to the other. Like Dr. Jekyll blaming Mr. Hyde.

Bush escalated the war when they invaded enemy territory by appointing former Republican Congressman, Peter Goss to replace former CIA director George Tenet. Before being canned Tenant had already begun shooting back at White House after the Bushites tried to pin the whole WMD fiasco on the CIA. Goss’s first job at the CIA would not be to reform the agency, but to put a cork in it. CIA veterans believed reform was needed, but at the White House, not the CIA -- which is why his CIA superiors approved the release of Scheuer’s book just weeks before the election. It was that kind of thing Goss was suppose to stop. A politically disloyal CIA was a politically dangerous CIA.

So, which side should we root for? Neither. Congress and the White House should get 100% behind the 9/11 Commission recommendations and implement them ASAP. Everything else is a sideshow designed largely to derail the Commission’s most important reforms. Hell hath no furry like a bureaucracy threatened.

The Ekkkonomy
I got some email from readers of Friday’s column, Slip, Slipping Away, saying they thought I was overstating the decrepit condition of the US economy. I pointed out to one of those readers that economic change seldom arrives as a clap of lightening, but rather sneaks up. Consumers are always the last to notice -- like the proverbial frog that just sits in a pot of water as he is boiled to death as the temperature is raised so slowly he does not notice it.
Clinton Treasury Secretary, Bob Rubin, understood that the bond market controls the economic heat. Watch the bond markets if you want to know if it’s time to get out of the water. I’ve been watching and I’m getting out. Here’s why.

Thanks to Bush’s “cut-taxes-borrow and spend” policies the US has become the biggest debtor nation in history of money. Everything we need to pay for -- from soldier’s wages, to bombs and tanks, to medical care, to repairing our own infrastructure, is now being paid for largely by borrowing from other countries.. primarily China and Japan. Those two countries alone hold over $1.3 trillion of US bonds.

That debt puts downward pressure on the dollar, which is why the dollar is now in freefall on world markets. Now, here’s where things get hairy. As the dollar falls in value bondholders begin to loose money. Needless to say, losing money was not part of their investment strategy. Sooner or later China and Japan’s bankers will decide that US dollars are no longer a good investment and will stop buying US bonds. During the September 9, 2004 sale of U.S. Treasury bonds Japan and China were no shows – the first time that anyone could remember that happening.

"Thoughts of panic flickered out there," Sadakichi Robbins, head of global fixed-income trading at Bank Julius Baer,” told the LA Times, adding that if it happened again it could precipitate what Robbins called "the doomsday scenario" — Japan and China not only refusing to buy U.S. bonds, but dumping their $1.3 trillion in US Bonds.

Foreign investors have no interest in precipitating a panic because they would lose too. So, you will not hear them sounding the alarm bells. Instead what we see are foreign investors whistling a nonchalant tune as they edge slowly, but steadily, towards the door.
In August, the most recent period for which there's data, foreign private investors sold $2 billion more in U.S. stocks than they bought and, more troubling, dumped $4 billion more in government bonds than they purchased.

"A run for the exits could happen any day, that's for sure," said C. Fred Bergsten, author of "Dollar Overvaluation and the World Economy" and director of the Institute for International Economics, a Washington think tank.

I have spent a quarter century covering business and, if I learned anything I learned this; there are immutable rules that apply to economics the same way there rules of physics apply to nature. Gravity… what a bitch. Wouldn’t it be so much easier to just step out a tenth floor window than walk down the steps? Right. Go ahead. Be my guest. And, it’s so much easier to just borrow money than earn it by cutting spending and/or raising revenue (taxes.)
Bottom line: Two different scenarios. Same result.

Bang! Bang! Primaries Being in Palestine
You think our elections are rough! Try running for office in Palestine. With their ugly thug former leader dead, the Palestinians need a new one. American authorities believe the candidate with the best chance of winning is Mahmoud Abbas. But before he can do that he has to survive what passes for the primaries in that part of the world. Voting in those primaries began yesterday. Electronic voting machines having not yet arrived in Palestine. Voters continue using their traditional ballot-casting AK47s.

Abbas was paying respects at Arafat’s grave when a group of masked voters arrived and began casting votes. Abbas did not “get” any of those votes, but two of his security guards did. Six other people were wounded.

Once again the rest of the world is going to be asked to choose between terrorist-rabble on the Palestinian side and a fat neo-fascist land-grabber on the Israeli side.

Bottom line: Nothing short of a Cyprus-like, Bosnia-like armed-enforced partition of these two countries will ever –EVER – put a stop to this nonsense.

Big Tent Party Get Ugly

When GOP leaders are pressed on issues like a woman’s right t
o choose, they always fall back on the same piece of worn out party propaganda. “We are a big tent party,” they say with that sugary evangelical half-smile we have all come too familiar with. “Unlike the Democrats we have room in our party for people who do not agree on all issues.”

What they don’t tell you about is the second part of the GOP Big Tent Rule: “Don’t ask, don’t tell.”

When a reporter asked newly re-elected GOP Senator, Arlen Specter, if, as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, he would approve an anti-choice Supreme Court nominee, Spector told… well sort of. He indicated that he did not expect that to happen.

It was hardly a resounding promise and more a dodge. Nevertheless it was not the resounding YES the GOP’s powerful religious right demands. So, Specter’s elevation to the chairmanship of Judiciary is now up in the air.

Bottom Line: The GOP Big Tent is crapola.

Praise The Lord. It’s the Law.
The Washington Post reported Friday that Christian evangelicals, who provided much of the passion and manpower for President Bush's re-election, are now lining up for their payday. And, like religious fundamentalists of any stripe, they are in no mood for namby-pamby compromises. Some evangelical leaders have even overtly warned the GOP will pay a price in future elections if its leaders do not take up the issues that brought evangelicals to the polls.

"Business as usual isn't going to cut it, where the GOP rides to victory by espousing traditional family values and then turns around and rewards the liberals in its r
anks," said Robert Knight, who heads an affiliate of Concerned Women for America, a Christian-conservative advocacy group. "If the GOP wants to expand and govern effectively, it can't play both sides of the fence anymore. It needs a coherent message, which came through loud and clear in the election."

Bottom Line: Those of you out there with those little Darwin fish emblems on your cars might want to pry them off. Things are gonna get a little weird for the next couple of years.