Monday, January 31, 2005

January 28, 2005

January 28, 2005

Queer Eye for The Straight Kid?
To the religious fundamentalist Satan works overtime as a cartoonist, devising ways to sneak into our kid’s minds. The latest Satan sighting comes by America’s Christian-Taliban was at PBS where he is channeling himself through cartoon characters. His goal, they believe; to boost the ranks of girly boys and truck-driving lesbians.

Forget about Osama bin Laden. The real attack against American values and culture is coming right into our homes through TV traveling under the moniker “SpongeBob SquarePants.” He is -- they gasp holding crosses up to their TV’s – the latest kiddy anti-Christ.

It seems that Bob was just a bit too flamboyant for America’s self-appointed hall monitors. Bob is on notice and on probation. If he continues swishing around and hanging out
with other suspiciously frolicky cartoon characters he will join the Teletubbies in exile. They were the first wave of pervert cartoon characters Satan put to work on kids’ minds. The ever-so Rev. Jerry Falwell outted those three interior decorators. The tip offs, Falwell said, were right there for anyone to see. First, they were clearly sissy boys. I mean, no real American boy would prance around talking silly touchy feely crap like those three. They were like a bunch of old hens. And, while it was fine that each was a different color, they were pastels. PASTELS! And they didn’t even clash. The last straw was that one of them carried a bag that looked suspiciously like a woman’s purse. Busted!!!

That was just the beginning. Once they discovered Satan’s Teletubby plot the Christian-Taliban sounded the alarm. Children’s programming became the latest front in the values war. And, the more they looked, the more they found. Not since Joe McCarthy uncovered commies crawling all over the U.S. State Department has the American way been at such peril.

And, where the Christian-Taliban goes, the Bush administration follows.. sometimes leads. So it was not long before the administration joined the cartoon crusades. As her very first act after being sworn in as Secretary of Education, Marg Spelling shot off a demand to PBS that they either round up their Buster cartoon character and get him to reeducation camp -- or else.

What did Buster do? Well, just about the worst thing a children’s cartoon character can do. He got caught on film treating a lesbian couple like everyone else. Oh this was a truly sinister plot. Satan learned from his Teletubby pilot project. This time he would not be so obvious. He laid his plans well. Buster’s show, “Postcards From Buster,” would be about a cute little bunny guy in (manly) jeans who travels the world interviewing children being raised in different cultures and under a variety of living conditions. The stated purpose of the show was to expose children to the wide variety of family environments in order to build understand and tolerance.

All went well for the first few shows as Buster visited children being raised on military bases, in the Amazon, in foster homes, and such. As soon as Satan figured no grownups were looking he made his move, sending his little pervert Buster to visit three happy and healthy kids being raised by two …. gasp… lesbians.

Now, in and of itself, this would not have been bad, they say, had the kids been clawing at the doors and windows, screaming and crying and begging to be rescued. But they were normal happy kids. So were the two women who are their parents. Their home was spacious, clean, Donna Reed would have loved the place. It was the perfect American home. But, not the perfect American family, as far as the Christian-Taliban were concerned.

Better if these kids were living in a trailer with a hard-drinking redneck father and subservient, beaten down mother, than these two women! At least they would see things the way god meant them to be. But a nice house, in a nice neighborhood, with nice cloths, vacations, good schooling, lots of love and support.. but from two women? NEVER! The only thing that could have made the episode worse is if it had featured a mixed race lesbian couple. But, let this one by, and can it be far behind?

So Secretary Spelling told PBS to either kill the episode or return any government money that went into producing this piece of live-and-let-live children’s programming. Fostering understanding and tolerance are fine, but teaching children that gays too can and do live normal lives, well, that’s just wrong. I mean everyone knows that being gay is perverted and perverts live dark, kinky and unhappy lives. Everyone knows that… or should.

To the Christian-Taliban Buster, SpongeBob and the Teletubbies are just further proof that their worst fears are being realized. The liberal media once “controlled by the Jews,” is now being run by GAY Jews. Their goal; to promote “the gay agenda” to our children. And everyone knows that, since they don’t reproduce, gays have to recruit new members.
Thank god they caught it.

And what did PBS do. It caved, promising it would not send that particular episode to its stations. Shame. Shame. Shame.

Now that the do-gooders have outted three leading cartoon perverts they can go back to watching good clean TV.. the Sopranos, Sex And The City and Desperate Housewives. Shows like that depict “real” American families in which only real men and real women live together, cheat on each other, beat each other, take drugs together, go to rehab together, get divorced, fight over who gets the kids – or gets stuck with them.

That’s the kind of programming that prepares kids for REAL family life. Is that a worry? Shouldn't they be working on those families instead? Not until they put an end to gay parenting first. If we don’t, in a generation we may end up with a nation full of adults who worry more about what kids living in poverty and abusive heterosexual houses than kids being well cared for by two parents whose genitals just happen to match.

Friday, January 28, 2005

January 27, 2005

Whores Are As Whores Do

With the blizzard of news flying at us these days you often have to piece several apparently unrelated stories together to figure out just exactly what the bastards are really up to.

Just that happened to me yesterday as I was reading through the glut of news feeds cluttering up my In Box. Two stories caught my attention:

Story #1: Ted Turner Compares FOX News to Nazi Propaganda
Love him or hate him, you have to admit that Ted Turner always speaks his mind. No beating around any bushes with Ted. And so it was earlier this week when Turner let loose as a media panelist at the National Association for Television Programming Executives' conference.

Turner called Fox News a propaganda tool of the Bush administration comparing to the German media that helped Adolph Hitler' win office in Germany before World War II.
Turner added that, like Bush, Hitler got the most votes when he was elected to run Germany prior to WWII. "There's nothing wrong with that. It's certainly legal. But it does pose problems for our democracy. Particularly when the news is dumbed down," leaving voters without critical information on politics and world events and overloaded with fluff," he said.

Fox responded in typical form: "Ted is understandably bitter having lost his ratings, his network, and now his mind.”

And we all know what the Nazis did to the insane.

Story #2: Another Journalist Was On Administration Payroll
In 2002, syndicated conservative columnist Maggie Gallagher repeatedly defended President Bush's push for a $300 million initiative encouraging marriage as a way of strengthening families. Now we learn just what sparked her interest in the subject.

“Gallagher failed to mention that she had a $21,500 contract with the Department of Health and Human Services to help promote the president's proposal. (Washington Post)

Well, that makes three now. First it was conservative loudmouth, Armstrong Williams, on the take from the Bushies for a cool quarter mil.

Then we learn that two edgy, hip, popular political blogs were pocketing $3,000 a month during the primaries to plant positive postings for the Dean campaign.

It’s one thing to learn that reporters are cheating by making up stories, or making up facts, that’s bad enough. But to learn that journalist can be bought is catastrophic.

I guess I should not be surprised to see the still young blogesphere go bad so quickly. It is, after all, chuck full of wanna be journalists and amateurs who have never had an editor rip their head off for turning in crappy story or getting something wrong. And, for a blog, three grand a month is about $4000 a month more than they ever hoped to see. It was big money for small fry.

But the other two bribees, Williams and Gallagher, don’t have that excuse to fall back on. They just took the money and delivered the administration propaganda as though they believed it. Now, if they did believe it they should have turned the money down and written about how stupid it was to waste public money bribing journalists already on the administration's side. If they did not believe in those positions they should have turned down the money and blasted the administration for offering them bribes.

They did neither. Instead they pocketed the dough like cheap whores, flopped on their backs, threw their legs in the air and delivered the goods.

The only question now is, how wide spread is journalistic payola? Potentially, very, because this administration has poured more than $88 million just last year into “public relations contracts.”

And if any administration since Nixon needed help with its public relations it’s certainly this one. But corrupting the media is hard to reconcile with Bush’s stated mission to spread freedom around the world. Because freedom without a free and independent press lasts only until the first public official lies and discovers he can get away with it.

After that, it all goes straight to hell.

(Is it getting warm in here or is it my imagination?)

Thursday, January 27, 2005

January 26, 2005
Democrats... Hello... Anyone In There?

Since their November drubbing at the polls Democratic Party appartchks have been busy trying to figure out how to elbow their way to seats on the Red State Express. Their theory; if you can’t beat-em, join-em.

Of course that is exactly wrong. Democrats moving to the right in search of conservative votes would be like the NAACP taking its lead from the Klu Klux Klan. If Democrats want to be Republicans then, go ahead join their party. But they can’t have it both ways. The two parties are as different as the NAACP is from the KKK – sometimes literally.

This is why I continue to encourage (nudge, nag, bug) Democrats to propose legislation that highlights those differences in ways Republicans cannot spin their way out of. The idea is not to just mindlessly oppose everything Republicans want but rather to propose laws that unmask the cruelty and hypocrisy of their agenda.

So, it’s in this spirit, of what I call, guerilla legislation, that I offer Democrats another way to shake up the status quo.

The issue: Choice.

We were just treated to the annual Roe v. Wade demonstrations during which both sides spend a day yelling insults at each other. The only difference this year is that the anti-choice forces are finally winning. And, if the pro-choice side (traditionally supported by Democrats) does not change its tactics, choice will be progressively narrowed until it all but disappears. (And, if you doubt this just listen to Democrat Party leaders talking about how they need to make “their” party more anti-choice-friendly. First, it’s NOT their party. Second, what the flying f..k is wrong with you guys?)

Rather than surrender to a bad idea Democrats should march to the Hill and propose the following bill:

The Abortion Mitigation Act of 2005

Under this law:

- Abortion would remain legal as it is now with one exception.
- A national Abortion Mitigation Registry would be established
-Those who oppose abortion would sign onto to this computerized adoption registry.
-This registry would work kind of like the current gun registry. It would be an instant point of contact computer check.
- Doctors, hospitals and family planning clinics would have to log on and check the registry when a woman comes in for an abortion.

If, when they check the registry, there is an applicant ready and legally committed to adopting the next fetus that would otherwise be aborted, then the abortion would be denied. If there were no contractually committed adopters on the list the abortion would be provided.

Wait. Please don’t get angry with me yet. I know what you are thinking – “easy for you to say Pizzo, you’re a guy.” But if we are not willing to take risks we are going to lose this fight. We already are.

In the case of this legislation the risk would be that some women would have to go through with a pregnancy they did not want in the first place. But, stop and think. Do you actually believe it will go that far? Republicans control Congress and this law would not pass. Not a chance. And I will tell you why in moment. But what forcing debate on this law will do is send a message to Republicans. That message would be that, from this day forward Republicans will no longer be allowed to demagogue the abortion issue without having their bluff called – and raised.

Because the law I am proposing would force the holier than thou anti-choicers, for the first time, to put their lives and their money where only their mouths have been. Up until now it has been a no risk, no pain fight for anti-choicers. They can demand that women have kids they do not want and/or can’t support, without any personal commitment or responsibility after that child comes into the world. After they “save” a baby they simply walk away and move on to their next victim. Under this law pro-lifers would have to deal personally with the lives they create – or shut the hell up.

The key is to write the law tightly, leaving no wiggle room out of a commitment to adopt the next baby available, regardless of color, health or gender. The argument Dems can make for this will serve to highlight the importance of choice. Most women seeking abortions did not choose to be pregnant. And, in the case of rape did not get to choose the genetic pedigree of the child. So likewise, the pro-lifers on the adoption registry should not be allowed to pick and chose either. When a registrant reaches the top of the list, they get the next kid that comes along. After all, why should they have choice since, if pro-lifers had their way women would have no choice either

If we have learned anything about these bible-thumping crusaders it's that they can lie and cheat with the best of them. So, to guard against anti-choicers sabotaging the registry by signing on and dropping off the list, we need punishments too. If a person reneges once they are in the top ten on the list they will be slapped with a large civil fine and banned for life from joining the list. There would be no outs, no excuses, and no mitigating circumstances -- because that is what they want for women -- no excuses, no mitigating circumstances. Get pregnant and you have to have the child. So, we need to hold them to the same rigid standard. It’s only fair, right?

If this bill were passed and signed into law I predict the registry would be empty within a year. But if Democrats pushed this bill aggressively, it won’t pass.. not even close. Because Republicans will understand that if it did pass it would change the entire political abortion equation. Since Roe v. Wade this issue has worked against Democrats – not because their pro-choice position was wrong, but because they allowed Republicans to frame the debate through terminology. If you are not “Pro-Life,” then by definition you must be “Anti-Life.” Meanwhile if you are not “Pro-Choice” all you can be is “Anti-Choice,” which is fine by them, because that’s how they see themselves anyway. We have lost, and will continue to lose, that conversation.

So, we need to redefine the issue.

By forcing a debate about abortion on the terms I propose Democrats would switch the focus entirely onto a field of battle where they can actually prevail. If it’s really life the anti-choicers want to save, then give them a way to do it.

Or, let them explain why such a registry is a bad idea. Oh man ... I can’t wait to hear that debate. Think about it. What argument could they possibly posit against joining this proactive, pro-life list that did not mirror the very same reasons women chose to end a pregnancy? They would argue, for example,

“There are lots of pro-lifers who would put their name on the registry but can't because;

  • They can’t afford to take on another child
  • They are single and have careers that require them to travel a lot.
  • They are among the 40 million Americans who can’t afford health insurance for themselves much less a child.
  • They are not ready to begin a family yet.
  • They are too young
  • They are too ill to care for a child.
  • They are unemployed.
  • They have an abusive spouse.
Well, you get my point. But, feel free to add to the list.

So, to those Dems in search for path back to relevance I say, START MAKING YOURSELVES RELEVANT BY STANDING FOR SOMETHING.

And, stop acting like Gollum trying to regain his Precious. It's really unattactive and off-putting.

And stop playing defense on issues like choice – or worse yet – surrendering hard-won ground – TAKE THE FIGHT TO THEM FOR A CHANGE.

Yes, Dems… fight. But fight smart. Be creative. Force Republican hypocrites to reveal just how little the really care about life once it hits the ground crying. Give them a real way to save unwanted fetuses.. every single one of them. But not without putting some of their own skin into the game.

Then, and only then, will voters see the anti-choicers for the sanctimonious, smug, cruel hypocrites that they actually are.

Oh, and while we are at it, ask how many full-term Iraqi kids have been killed in the last two years by their compassionate, pro-life, president. Too late to adopt any of them though.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

January 25, 2005

Bush's Secret Economic Plan

Now that it’s become painfully clear that massive tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations did not produce increased business and personal tax revenues (duh!!) what now?

But you ask - how do we know that tax cuts alone do not work? Well, unless you are stupid or simply hopelessly partisan the proof is all over the place. Start with the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, which reported yesterday that this year’s budget deficit will top $368 billion – and that’s NOT counting the cost of the Iraq/Afghanistan wars.

The CBO figures that the government (AKA, “you”) will accumulate another $855 billion in deficits over the next decade -- excluding the costs of President Bush's Social Security plan AND the Bush wars. (Add another $2 trillion to that number if Bush gets his way with Social Security private accounts.)

Then there’s the wars, which the CBO says will ding us an additional $280 billion this year. Let’s put that in big-ass number in perspective. That amount of money is nearly half the $600 billion the United States spent to win World War I and half the $623 billion it cost to lose the Vietnam War, And yes, those figures represent costs translated into 2005 dollars.

The nearly $6 trillion in deficit spending Bush racked up over the past four years, plus lots more of the same now has the entire world worried. The dollar – once the pillar of world currencies – has plummeted in value. Central banks around the world are dumping dollar investments as though they were dot-com stocks. And, friend and foe alike, are begging the Bush administration to get a handle on its spending habit before it’s too late.

"Europe has until now paid too big a share in this readjustment," Hervé Gaymard, the French finance minister, said. His German counterpart, Hans Eichel, said the United States needed to reduce its deficits, adding, "each one has to play its role."

Two months ago, similar sentiments came from China's prime minister, Wen Jiabao, whose nation is at the center of a struggle with Washington over currency policy. He complained about the fall of the dollar, asking, "Shouldn't the relevant authorities be doing something about this?"

Damn the Torpedoes
But to change course now would mean having to admit that Bush’s ruinous tax cuts did not work. And, that supply side economics is just what Daddy Bush called it, “voodoo economics.” And, it would mean having to scale back the neo-con wet dreams of a militarily-enforced Pax Americana throughout the Arab world.

So, except for some domestic program cuts, don’t expect to see the Bushies do anything significant about budget deficits, or to staunch the flow of national lives and treasure down that rat hole, Iraq.

It would be unfair though to conclude though that the Bush folks don’t have a plan up their sleeves, because they do have a plan. And it’s a plan that worked pretty well once before when the country had big bills to pay and not much money with which to pay them. It’s called inflation…. and lots of it.

That’s how we paid off the bill left by the last president to believe he could have both guns and butter, Lyndon Johnson. Johnson, like Bush, had an un-winnable war on his hands, Viet Nam. Johnson’s expensive domestic agenda was not tax cuts but his “Great Society,” vision that created new social programs on a massive scale.

The Johnson administration bill came due during Gerald Ford’s administration. And, without the money to pay it they allowed inflation to run free. By doing so they were able to repay old debt with cheapened dollars.

How does that work? It’s all about the physics of economics. When the price of something, say a washing machine, suddenly jumps from $150 to $250 it does not mean the washing machine’s intrinsic value increased that much, but rather that the value of the dollars in your pocket decreased that much. Your money is worth less and less as inflation progresses along, what quickly becomes a self-sustaining upward trajectory.

But, while products and services go up in price, existing debts remain unchanged. If you owed $12,000 on your mortgage before inflation, you still owe that no matter how much inflation rages. So, you get to pay that old debt back with increasingly cheap dollars. Debtors win. Lenders loose – at lease on their old loans.

And that’s the Bush plan. I know it’s their plan because, now that we are this far down the deficit road, it’s the only plan left.

But wait!… what about Fed Chief Alan Greenspan, you ask? Greenspan hates inflation. He would never allow the administration to inflate now.

No he wouldn’t. But next year Greenspan retires and Bush can appoint a new Fed Chairman.. one that does what he’s told, like all other Bush appointees. That’s when you will see it begin. Monetary policy will be steadily loosened. The money supply will grow and as any first year econ student knows, the more of something there is, the less it’s worth.

With prices on imported goods already on the rise due to the slumping dollar, pumping more dollars into the system will be like throwing lighter fluid on a fire. The dollar will continue its fall on world markets, central banks, already getting burned on their existing dollar-debt securities, will stop funding our deficits entirely. That will cause US interest rates to skyrocket. (Those of us old enough to remember the Ford/Carter administrations will recall that home mortgage rates were well over 10%.)

It took almost ten years to put those inflationary fires out and since then we have been conditioned to believe that inflation is all bad, that no good can come of it. Then, why would anyone want inflation? First, for the reason stated above – existing government debt can be repaid with cheap dollars. But that benefit extends just the same to the private sector, particularly debt-ridden companies that then get to repay their debts at pennies on the dollar. It’s a bit like going through reorganization without having to declare bankruptcy.

Inflation is also good for those who already own hard assets, particularly real estate. For them a few years of raging inflation is pure heaven. During the late 1970s I was realtor in Northern California. My clients were buying any kind of real estate they could get their hands on. Ordinary people were pooling money with neighbors to scrape enough together for a down payment to buy something - anything. Why? Because real estate values were rising 2% A MONTH… an annual return on the purchase price of about 25%. And, if they borrowed the down payment, even at 12% interest, the leverage allowed anyone to make a bundle with almost no risk at all.

That in turn created even greater demand for real estate forcing the price higher yet. Those were very good years for real estate investors. Lenders too made money since borrowers were not buying homes to live in for 30 years but rather to resell in a year. Turnover was enormous. Profits were enormous.

And inflation was good for those lucky enough to have cash in CD’s. Money market mutual funds were paying a mind-boggling 14% interest on savings. The wealthy elderly loved it, and miss those days dearly. Also, those who locked in those rates by buying 30 year US bonds made a frigging killing when rates went back down.

Not everyone benefits from periods of inflation. But, those who suffer under inflation are the very people the Bush folk have shown they care the least about anyway – the poor, working families, the disabled. They’ll eat it in the shorts – as usual.

Oh, and what about tax revenues? Yes, remember how the Bush tax cuts were going to spur business activity and therefore create more tax revenue? Didn’t happen. But, once they throw the inflation switch to the “on” position tax revenues will go up, but not because of increased business activity. They will go up because wages will go up as workers demand at least cost of living increases. That in turn will create more taxable income and move many middle class families into higher and higher tax brackets. That will also work hand in hand with the dreaded Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT). The AMT, created originally to catch rich tax cheats, will sweep more and more working families into its cold, uncaring arms, while it picks their pockets.

Fine mess you got us into this time, Stanley

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

January 24, 2005

As the president puts the final touches this week on his second-term cabinet, a revolution that began a 25 years ago achieves its ultimate goals. Ronald Reagan was its first modern leader, Newt Gingrich became it's second leader. And, it was Gingrich’s “Contract With America” that became the neo-conservatives Trojan horse, even as Democrats occupied the throne.

A bloody, no-holds-barred battle raged for the next eight years. Unfettered by principle or any modicum of fair play, neo-con forces made steady progress, nearly toppling the Clinton regime itself at one point.

The 2000 election, so close it had to be decided by a controversial Supreme Court ruling, capped the neo-con revolution. Re-elected rightwing conservatives had finally achived the creation of the most radically conservative government America has ever had. Not since the Taliban ruled Afghanistan has the world seen a more ideologically shaped and driven clique in charge of an entire nation -- only in this case that nation is also the world’s last-standing super-power.

It's a fact that is now even giving some Republicans sleepless nights as they worry they have allowed their party to by hijacked, just as Afghans had allowed the Taliban to hijack their country under religious pretence. The Bush neo-cons see their re-election as the long awaited green light to finally implement a pure neo-con agenda. That agenda can be summed up in its rawest and most fundmental form as:

U.S. Domestic policy:
"Survival of the fittest."

American Foreign Policy:
"What are you looking at? You want a piece of this?"

So, even as the nuttiest of the nutty within Bush’s first administration are given medals, promoted to Cabinet posts and kept on for a second term, many House and Senate Republicans appear to be plotting to frag their own leader and his neo-con henchmen. Even before Bush’s November win, some mainstream Republican strategists were privately hoping for a Kerry victory, worrying that a second Bush term would be so radical it might result in Republican loses for the next 25 years.

Veteran Republican Senator Chuck Hagel, of Red-State Nebraska, has gotten louder in recent weeks in his condemnation of the administration’s war in Iraq. Sunday Hagel told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos" that he did not believe the White House had a strategy to extricate the United States from Iraq. Senator John McCain, asked if he had confidence in the administration’s handling of the war responded, “I have no confidence in Rumsfeld.”

And, it’s not just the neo-cons handling of the war that’s making fellow Republicans nervous. Bush’s plans to begin dismantling Social Security, one piece at time beginning with personal accounts, is also making them nervous.

Republican Sen. Olympia J. Snowe of Maine, who sits on the Finance Committee, which Bush will need to approve his plans, indicated this weekend that she is no fan of the Bush proposal. "There is a lot of fear among seniors," Snowe said on CNN's "Inside Politics Sunday."

Over on the House side Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Thomas, a gruff and independent Republican from California, told Tim Russert he though Bush’s proposal would not improve Social Security and called for a broader review. Both Thomas and Snowe, questioned Bush's description of the outlook for Social Security as a "crisis."

Thomas also fired a shot across the administration’s bow on trade policy, which he and many other Republicans, see as unbalanced and unfair to American producers. "The United States is the world's largest importer and the world's largest exporter, and our tax system is out of sync with the rest of the world," Thomas said. "We pay their social costs; they don't pay ours."

And, these Republicans only get more and more nervous as fresh Bush administration’s secrets leak out. This weekend the Washington Post reported that the administration created a new ultra-secret intelligence/covert ops, the Strategic Support Branch, answerable only to Donald Rumsfeld. Intelligence oversight committees of Congress, it seems were left out of the loop on this, and they were not amused.

Republican Sen. John McCain bristled that he had to learn about this new intelligence agency in the newspaper. He announced that the Senate Armed Services Committee will hold hearings on the Post report that the Defense Department is reinterpreting U.S. law to give the secretary broad authority over clandestine operations abroad.

When the Post story broke the Defense Dept. issued a statement denying that it even existed. That turned out to be a lie. By early this morning the Post story had been confirmed by other news outlets and the Defense Dept. was backtracking. Now it seems whether there is such a secret group within the DOD depends on what the meaning of “is” is.

The Strategic Support Branch, according to The Post, expands the Pentagon's use of human intelligence operations, recruits spies and interrogates prisoners. Agents recruited by the SSB can now include "notorious figures" whose ties to the United States would be an embarrassment if revealed, according to a Pentagon memo quoted by the Post.

And do we doubt there will be such leaks? Of course not. In fact House and Senate Republicans know that there will eventually be disclosures about what Rumsfeld’s SSB goons have been up to and that it will not be pretty – especially since the SSB has been shielded from congressional oversight.

What old-fashioned, mainstream conservatives are beginning to discover is that they have allowed the crazy wing of their party to take over. Now they must know how moderate Muslims in Afghanistan must have felt when they woke up one day to learn that all those pious Islamic Mullahs they allowed to run their country were messianic, psychotic, megalomaniacs.

The Bush Talipublican neo-cons share many traits with the now deposed Taliban. They are deeply religious, believe God acts through them, and are suspicious of any science that contradicts their narrow views and beliefs. They are xenophobic, hostile to outsiders, foreign traditions, beliefs and cultures. They are unnecessarily aggressive and quick to fight because they view negotiation and compromise as signs of weakness. And, they can be cold and cruel towards those entrusted to their care, those who do not or cannot contribute to their goals and visions for society, especially women, children and the poor or disadvantaged.

Republicans turned this monster loose and it is now out of control. Since Democrats are clearly not up to the task, it may well fall to Republicans now to round these screwballs up before they do any more damage.

Because if we fail to put a stop to this neo-con coup this time, Rummy’s Strategic Support Branch may end up having more than we want in common with that other S.S.

Monday, January 24, 2005

January 21, 2005

Bush Hits Ground Repairing Diplomatic Ties
George W. Bush wasted no time the first full day of his second term. His first act was to begin repairing any diplomatic damage that he might have caused among America's allies in the war against terror. We were able to obtain the emails Bush sent to the leaders of three of those countries:

To: Saudi Royal Family
From: GWB

Re: My speech

Your Highnesses,
By now ya’all have probably heard about my inauguration speech yesterday. (Yeah, I know you were not invited. NOT my fault. Karl said it was not a good idea for me to be photographed yukking it up with a bunch of robed royals. But listen, Laura and I are going to have ya’all to the ranch for a BBQ this summer, and we WON’T be inviting Worry Wart Rove! HA! :-)))

Anyways, as I was saying about my speech --- was that a kick-ass speech, or what? I had lots more but Karl cut my best lines. I had one about France that was a real side splitter too. Rove said the less I say the better so he shortened the speech. He cut out a bunch of nice things I wanted to say about how Saudi Arabia has stepped up the plate in the war on terrorists. He cut that part because he thought it clashed with the universal freedom theme, thing. I disagreed, but Karl goes all weird on me when he doesn’t get his way. The last thing I needed yesterday was Karl walking around all pouty mouth. :-(

I know I also said a bunch of stuff about how we were going to get butch with counties that are not democracies. You might have thought Saudi Arabia might be on that list. Well, no way! You guys have a sweet thing going -- wish I had the same set up here. (Oh man! I just flashed on a vision of Dick Cheney in Saudi royal robes, head-towel thing, the whole git-up – what a hoot! So, can you send me one? I’m gonna make Dick put it on and I'll send you the pictures. That would besooo funny!;-)

Anyways, I just wanted to assure you fellas that now that all the election stuff and speechifying are out of the way you won’t be hearing anything more noise about us wanting free and open elections in Saudi Arabia.

Free elections in Saudi Arabia!?!?!? – Jesus H. Christ, can you imagine what friggin mess THAT would be! Actually I know you can, because you told me last summer between gin and tonics. I have not been able to forget your description of millions of swarthy, radical Muslims, indoctrinated by Saudi-funded nut-case Mullahs, marching like terrorist robots to the polls. Let me tell ya, I'm still having nightmares about that.

So, between ya’all and me, as for free elections in Saudi Arabia --- over my dead body! Ain’t gonna happen,royal senors. And I know we can count on you guys to make sure it doesn’t.

Hey, while I have your ear, what say you boost oil production a notch or two? I want to give Americans a little something. It’s the kind of small thing that keeps them out of my hair. You might not realize it but, even in a democracy, people can be bought off.

Man... look who I am giving lectures to about how to buy people off! That's like telling monkeys how to eat bananas. ;-) Ha!

Your pal,

To: Gen. Musharaf
Pakistan Pres.

From: GWB
US Pres.

Re: My speech

Dear General/President,
Listen amigo, I just wanted to drop you a quick email about my speech yesterday. You might have thought I was talking about Pakistan when I speechified about spreading democracy to countries that don’t have the stuff. Well, of course I wasn’t. We have been friends long enough so that I figured you’d know that, but Karl said I should make sure by shooting you a personal note.

How could anyone - much less you -- seriously believe we would want free and open elections in Pakistan? Holy moly, what a mistake that would be. I bet if we did a poll right now 90% of the people there would say they think Osama would do a better job running Pakistan than you!

And then there are all those Talibaners you guys funded and supported for years in Afghanistan. They all moved to Pakistan when we invaded Afghanistan. And you wanna bet they’d want to vote too? Sure they would, the pushy little bastards. No way! Before anyone gets to vote in your neck of the woods we first have to weed out the people who should not vote – like ever – if you get my point. :-0 ;-) (LOL)

But I know you and I are on the same page with that, General. So, rest easy. No one is going to be marching to the polls in Pakistan anytime soon – especially considering the mess I started by insisting those ungrateful Iraqis vote. Lesson learned there, dude! :-/

Listen, one more thing. Laura has a real thing for sizzling tandor. Do you have a cook you can send over? One small problemo tho. The Secret Service says I can’t have a Muslim cook – for obvious reasons. So can you try to find one that’s, as you guys like say, an “infidel.” (We call those kind of non-religious folk “sinners” over here. Trouble is when you call someone a sinner you need proof they committed a sin. So I kinda like the term “infidel.” It’s edgier and more flexible. All someone has to do be an “infidel” is to be an unbeliever. “Hillary Clinton, infidel!” Ted Kennedy, Infidel. Ha! Take that looooosers. )

Anyways, look into the sizzling tandor cook thing, would ya?

Thanks General AND President. I like that too. Nice touch dude :-)

To: Pres, Mubarak

Re: My Speech

Mr. President of Egypt
My mummy sends her regards. Ha! Sorry ‘bout that but, as you can imagine, I’m feeling pretty frisky after winning reelection.

Then again maybe you can't imagine, since since no one is allowed to run against you. Frankly, that's a sweet brand of democracy. Wish I had that. It sure would save on the time I have to waste raising campaign money to battle some liberal Democrat.

Anyways, you may be concerned about my all-democracy-everywhere speech. Well, not to worry. First the $2 billion we send Egypt every year so you make nice to Israel is safe. Check’s in the mail already for this year. Signed the damn thing myself, just to make sure you know we like you guys just the way you are.

I have to hand it to you guys. You really pulled off something pretty impressive. I mean, it’s not like you have oil or something we need. All you have are a bunch of mummies and sand. Nevertheless we send you truckloads of money every year and let you have your way, at least most of the time.

And what do we get in return? Just your promise Egypt will not committe suicide-by-cop invading Israel. Nicely done sir!

Hey, while I have you, can you send me a mummy? No, seriously Hosni, I want one, preferably in its original box. I am going to sneak it into Rumsfelds office some night with a sign on the box reading “Rummy’s Mummy.” Ha! I can just see the old farts face! He’ll love it.

But send it directly here, to the White House. I want to play with it first. :-)))

Your pal
President of US of A.

By Stephen Pizzo
Raconteur at Large

Friday, January 21, 2005

Januray 20, 2005

So, Let’s Talk Privacy v. Security

If you feel like someone is watching, you are right. They are. And they will be watching a lot more as time goes on. And, there isn’t a thing we can do to stop it.

The choice that confronts us in this increasingly crowded and hostile world reminds me of the old Jack Benny gag. when a mugger confronted the old tightwad with the traditional threat, “Your wallet or life?” Benny did not respond. When the mugger repeated the threat Benny snapped back, “Give me minute to decide!”

That pretty much sums up the choice Americans face today between the extraordinary level of person privacy we cherish and the new threats we face. While the Bush administration has demagogued the terrorist threat for its own narrow political purposes, there is no denying such threats exist. If you doubt it exists just ask Spanish train riders, Israeli bus passengers, or any of the 9/11 families.

It would be nice if we could have a national discussion about this and agree just how much privacy we are willing to trade for security. But no such discussion is going to happen. That’s because security has taken on a life of its own. It’s one thing when the government says it’s going to start tracking millions of people – because we know they can’t do it. Hell, they can’t even keep track of what their own government employees and contractors are doing much less the rest of us. For example, we just learned that the FBI’s anti-terrorism division wasted $170 million on a computer system and database that does not work and will have to be chucked. (Tip: ever hear of Dell, dudes?)

But it’s quite another thing when private sector companies say they are going to do it, because, if there’s enough money in it, they can -- and they are. Read, for example, this morning’s story in the Washington Post about Alpharetta, Ga.-based ChoicePoint Inc.

The company began in 1997 to sell credit histories to the insurance industry. But in the process the company was sucking in all kinds of data on you and I. When Admiral Poindexter’s plan to build a super-database of real-time consumer behavior blew up in his face when it became public a couple of years ago, it was ChoicePoint that stepped up to the plate. The company has now become a one-stop source of personal financial. Among its clients today, the Dept. of Justice, the CIA and dozens of other government law enforcement and intel agencies.

"We do act as an intelligence agency, gathering data, applying analytics," said company vice president James A. Zimbardi.

And ChoicePoint is just beginning to tap the government market for personal intel. chief executive Derek V. Smith said he'll be reaching out to Capitol Hill in the coming months.

"We have a new responsibility to society, and we want to make sure that's legitimized," Smith said. "We'd like everybody to play by the same rules and standards that society believes are correct."

When a private sector information gatherer like this mates with government agencies a massive transfer of information is inevitable. In return for providing access to, say credit card histories, law enforcement agencies agree to share their criminal databases with the company, which then markets that information to, Say, bail bond companies who will, in return for pricing consideration, share their client information as well. And so it goes, on and on, piece by piece, a mosaic is created of individuals lives and behavior until there are few aspects of an individual’s life not more than a keystroke away from a curious commercial or government eye.

At the other end of the privacy v. security debate are people like Chris Hoofnagle, associate director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a nonprofit group in the who describes ChoicePoint’s data base as a " 'Scarlet Letter' society,” where no one will ever be able to escape any aspect of their pasts. A reformed drug addict will have to live with his addicted persona forever – because data is never reformed, never changes, never dies.

Is there a middle ground? Maybe. But, if there is, it’s eroding fast. Because more powerful forces are at work here than even our robust democracy may be able to resist.

It is a statistical, demographical fact that the world of 2005 bears no resemblance to the world of 1776, or 1876, 1946 or even 1996. Quite simply the world is becoming overcrowded.
Competition for finite natural resources, ores, oil, fresh water, grows by the hour. As populations grow and spread, incompatibilities between once far-flung cultures, races and religions will flare as the edges of each meet, each trying to push past the other. Christians fight Muslims. Muslims fight Christians and Jews. Hindus fight Muslims.. possibly with nukes.

And each of those nation states will also spawn thousands of zealots, who will take up their nationalistic/religious causes in the form of terrorism -- some in organized groups, others as freelancers. The first wave of these zealots are already at work, Islamic terrorists. But do you believe for a moment that America can be hit more than a couple of more times by terrorists before our own nutcases grab their guns? You know the ones I’m talking about, the Timothy McVea’s, the Ruby Ridgers, the Waco-apologists, the Walter Mitty- filled “militias” of balding, beer-bellied low brows just itching to shoot a “raghead” (or raghead-sympathizers.) And, since these white guys with red necks would stick out like sore thumbs low-crawling around Middle Eastern countries, these militia types will take their fury out on US soil, against Mosques, Synagogues, family planning clinics, and foreign and US government buildings. You can put money on it.

So then, what of privacy and security in such a world? Clearly the days of lassie faire privacy are over – whether we like it or not. If government doesn’t get into the business of watching what’s going on out here the private sector will. And, as we see they already are.

The trouble is we citizens don’t seem to know what we want either. We are schizophrenic on this issue. The very people out there who are clucking their tongues about intrusions into personal privacy are the same people who will condemn the powers that be for doing too little to protect the nation when the next mass murder occurs on US soil. The privacy v. security equation is a lose/lose for anyone holding power from now on. Apply too much security, and citizens hate you for it. Apply too little security and we will blame them for being too lax on security every time a terrorist strikes.

But in a very real and fundamental way this argument has already been taken out of our hands. There is no force on earth, not terrorism, not democracy, not authoritarian rule, that can stop commercial self-interest. If you need proof look no further than the international drug trade. No matter how much money, military force, police resources, boarder searches we throw at it, the drug trade not only persists, but flourishes. An authoritarian government that bans goods from the West gets what? Smugglers. Commercial self-interest will always serve itself first. Always. Sometimes that’s a good thing. Sometimes it’s a bad thing. But, as long as it needs to get something done to make reach its revenue goals, it will always find its way around obstacles put in its path.

And today security has become the business of business, for two reasons. First, commercial trade requires international stability. Terrorism is bad for business. Simple as that. The other reason is that money – big money - can be made selling the stuff. Security is a product now. Selling security services and intel has become a multi-billion dollar growth industry. Try as we may we will not, cannot stop it. Just like drug dealers, companies will find ways around any laws passed designed to deprive them of access to all those honey pots of data out there. And your personal information is right at the top of their wish list.

So what to do? Well, first get used to it… at least up to a point. Too much security is a bit like pornography -- hard to define but you know it when you see it. So we can, and should, throw a fit when we feel they have gone too far. Go to court, sue the bastards and push back.

But you can forget about ever being invisible again. If you live in a city and leave your house a security camera will see you. If you buy something, even with cash, the transaction will eventually wind its way to ChoicePoint, some other data miner or government database.

And a national ID card can only be one more major terrorist attack away -- two at the most. Such a card will serve as a national drivers license as well. It will contain biometric data, a fingerprint most likely. So that when someone checks in for a flight the print on the card will be scanned and checked against the one on the passenger’s finger. While that is happening both prints will be compared electronically with the print “they” have on file.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not endorsing any of this, simply saying it’s inevitable -- and for reasons that are quite out of our control. As realtors like to say when trying to sell a piece of land, “you know, they ain’t making this stuff anymore.” But we are making people. Billions of the little critters, 6.43 billion at this writing and millions of new ones added every month. It’s getting crowded and will get a lot more so. Scientists have studied the effects of over-crowding and you will not be surprised what they found. Whether it’s animals or people, when they crowd them into a finite space they get cranky… very cranky. Then they get nasty – real nasty.

We had been in the cranky phase. But after 9/11 I think it’s safe to assume we have moved into the nasty phase. It will be interesting to see what kind of America emerges.

By Stephen Pizzo
Raconteur at Large

Thursday, January 20, 2005

January 19, 2005

Steamed Rice

If there was any doubt that George Bush and Condoleezza Rice were joined at the brain those doubts were put to rest yesterday. Rice’s confirmation testimony could have been delivered by Bush himself.

Mistakes? What mistakes? We don’t make mistakes in this administration.

Lies? What lies? We don’t lie to the American people.

WMD in Iraq? What....hey, did I tell you guys about how honest I am? How dare you insinuate otherwise!

So what we learned from Rice’s testimony was, in a word, nothing -- at least, nothing new. As she moves from the White House to her new post as America’s top diplomat, the irony will not be missed on the rest of the world.

We did learn one other thing from Rice’s demeanor at the hearings. If the Bush administration needs another Secretary of State to stand up and lie to the whole world again, Condi is their gal. And this time they will not have to waste time lying to her first as they had to do to get Powell out there.

Rice is a team player, a real standup gal – a natural born liar.

Knuckle-dragger Watch
Step right up boys and girls and get your biblical lobotomy right here at school. High school students in Harrisburg Penn. are now required to listen to their biology teachers instruct them on ``intelligent design' as well as evolution. That’s right, science teachers will be instructing public school students that evolution is just a theory and it is equally likely that the universe was created just the way it is a supernatural being (AKA, God.)

Now let me get this straight. Even though there laboratories and museums around the world chuck full of evidence supporting evolution, and not a single piece of physical, much less scientific, evidence to support the religious theory of “intelligent design,” the two have to be taught as equals in science class. Yep. And the knuckle draggers are deeeeelighted.

``The revolution in evolution has begun,'' said Richard Thompson, the law center's president and chief counsel. ``This is the first step in which students will be given an honest scientific evaluation of the theory of evolution and its problems.''

Okay, time to turn the tables by demanding that astrology be taught alongside astronomy. The logic.. their logic anyway, would make this argument easy. In fact there's a direct and solid comparison:

  • Astronomers believe we can study the distant past in the stars.
  • Astrologers believe we can study the future in those same stars.
  • There's lots of proof that astronomers can actually see the way the universe looked billions of years ago.
  • While there is no proof the future can be predicted from studying the stars.

So there you are. There’s no proof for intelligent design either. But, to the zombified bible thumpers scientific process is just another tool of Satan.

So if parents in this school district who want to put a stop to this nonsense they should go straight to the school board and demand that as long as “intelligent design” is required in biology class then astrology must be added to the astronomy curriculum as well.

As I have repeatedly said in this space, the only way to teach religious zombies why separation of church and state is critical to our way of life is to show them. They will not listen, they must be shown. And the best way to show them is to match and raise them every time they pull a stunt like this.

If they get prayer in school then immediately insiste on Buddhist chants and Muslim prayers five times a day as well. And if they refuse, which they will, take the hypocrits to court.

Of course, you don’t want Buddhist chants or Muslim prayers in school, but neither do they. That’s the point, a point they clearly do not get. So, help them get it.

Head up Butt Award
What possesses otherwise smart people to say really stupid things, out loud, in public? I don’t know. Maybe people are more like computers than we think and, every now and then, a .dll file gets lost or corrupted resulting in a pile of intellectual gibberish.

How else can you explain what former Clinton economic wizard Larry Summers said this week at a public gathering of science professors. Summers, in case you didn’t know, parlayed his White House job into a cushy post as president of Harvard U.

While rattling off the top of his head at the conference Summers mused that fewer women become scientists because maybe they are wired wrong when it comes to math and science.

He dug this hole deeper with an tale about how he came to this conclusion. He said when his daughter was a little girl he gave her a gift of two trucks, one larger than the other. He said within a couple of days she was referring to the trucks as “the daddy truck and the baby truck.”

Nice going Larry. Maybe next time stick to a script.

It’s the Larry Summers’ Improv Special!
“Hey girls – wait, don't leave. I got a million of them. How about that PMS, ladies? Talk about an albatross. Let me see a show of hands – how many of you lady scientists are feeling grouchy today and just want to split the hell out of an atom or something? Just kidding…” Wacka wacka wacka…

Now for a round of dumb blond jokes.

Larry, Larry, Larry...... go to your room.

By Stephen Pizzo
Raconteur at Large

PS: My pal Tony disagrees with the above.

Choice and Truth (01/18/05)
He wasn’t relegating women to second-class citizenship; he was saying that gender-wise predilections should be studied. To say that there aren’t innate differences between the sexes is absurd. To say that we shouldn’t learn more about the differences is heresy.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

January 18, 2005

Reforming Bush's Reform Agenda

I was thinking this morning about Bush’s agenda for his second four years at the wheel of our bus. In his first four years his driving skills were more akin to those of Mr. Magoo than Dale Earnhardt. All we can do now is hope he learned something the first time around the track.

Nevertheless, I am not suggesting that Democrats should simply discard Bush’s stated second term agenda out of hand, but to embrace it. Well, not as currently written, of course. Democrats need to make these issues their own – take them away from the Republicans by first acknowledging the problems, embrace Bush’s desire to fix these ills, then rewrite Bush’s prescriptions so they do good rather than harm.

Reform Social Security

Republicans never liked Social Security or Medicare, both of which they see as little socialist tumors festering in our capitalistic body. And now, for the first time in half a century, they have majorities in both houses and a President in the White House. Now is the time to begin cutting out that tumor, one piece at a time. The first step is to sell Americans on privatizing a portion of Social Security. Their argument is that, by letting people invest a portion of their Social Security withholding in the stock market workers will get a better return on their money than they do in the government run Social Security Trust Fund.

What Democrats need to say is, “Fine. If you Republicans in Congress really believe that then let’s do it today. If you Republicans are right that there are higher returns just waiting to be harvested in stocks and bonds, then let’s simply cut to the chase and pass a law today that allows the Social Security Trust Fund to be invested in stocks and bonds. What are we waiting for? If that’s true then we are violating our fiduciary responsibilities. We must remedy that immediately. So let’s just cut to the chase and start investing in the markets.”

You will hear a pin drop in the room as Republicans stare in wide-eyed terror. Because, the last thing they want is their fingerprints on the body. By proposing that workers be saddled with the responsibility to make stock and bond investments with this money if they win or lose becomes their problem, not Washington’s. If the market crashes or returns fail to meet expectations, well, you made poor decisions. But, if the government is investing the money then that’s a different matter.

Democrats need to push this hard, as though they really want it. And, then let Republicans explain why they do not want to pass a law that begins harvesting all the stock and bond profits they claim are just there to be had.

That is not an argument I have heard Democrats make yet. And they should, because it would prove the lie that private accounts will somehow generate better returns for future Social Security recipients.

It’s not like no one has tried this. We learned when Great Britain tried the same thing that the only people whose returns grew were financial institutions that skimmed up to 15% in fees off this high pressure stream of revenues suddenly flowing into their hands. Compare that to the average half a percent it costs for Social Security to manage that money today and you can see that those private accounts Bush wants would have to out perform the historical average of stock and bond returns by several percentage points to pay off.

So, cure what ills Social Security really has? Sure go ahead. But make sure the prescription is written by Dr. Welby, not Dr. Kavorkian.

Reforming the Tax Code

In his first four years in office Bush already reformed a portion of the national tax system by cutting taxes in ways that provided a few crumbs to working Americans and cake and caviar to the already wealthy. All that extra money dumped on those at the top was supposed to trickle down. Some did. Yacht sales have skyrocketed, luxury resorts, hotels and restaurants were forced to add a sixth “Star” level of luscious service, and private jet services are booming. The rest of us are still waiting for the trickle, staying at Motel 6, eating at one-star Denny’s and flying coach – if we’re lucky.

If Bush really wants to use tax policy to spur domestic economic growth there is no better or faster way to do that than to cut the payroll tax. But, since he shot our national wad giving nearly $2 trillion in tax cuts to the rich, the only way he can cut the payroll tax now is if he would agree to repeal some of his earlier tax cuts to the rich.

That’s where Democrats need to come out swinging. When you cut the payroll tax you put dollars in the pockets of working Americans, many with families to support. The big selling point here is that there is no need to wait for some questionable “trickle down” affect to materialize. This money goes right to people who spend it as fast as it comes in, not because they are spendthrifts, but because they no discretionary income. What they do have are fundamental human expenses that need to be met each month and which they struggle to make on their shrinking hourly earnings. So they spend those extra dollars the same week they get their hands on them. And, they spend them on the kind of stuff that really does create new jobs – furniture, clothing, cars, TVs, and other durable goods.

Of course none of that spending will create many US jobs unless we reform one more thing:

Reforming Trade
Democrats need to really dig their heels in on trade. If all those working American dollars end up going to firms producing goods in China and India all that will do is deepen our already horrendous trade deficit. While we must never go back to protectionist trade policies, we must insist on fair trade.

What is fair trade? It’s easier to explain what unfair trade is, because that’s what we have now. While the Bush administration feels it has every right to tell other countries what form of government they should have, they seem to believe they have no right to tell them how they should treat their workers or the environment.

American manufacturers must – rightly - toe the line, at great expense when it comes to worker pay and safety. And, they comply with expensive methods to dispose of hazardous materials. Meanwhile in China and India and other developing countries workers have no such protections and hazardous materials are cheaply dumped on the ground, into rivers or released into the atmosphere.

There’s no way an American manufacturer of widgets can compete with a Chinese widget company if the Chinese factory can simply dump its toxic widget wastes, pay its workers peanuts and, as for worker safety well, if a worker is gets his or her hand eaten by a widget press, it’s just too bad – for the worker. Workman’s Comp? Are you kidding?

Since Americans are not about to go back to the bad old days of worker mistreatment and polluting factories, we have to insist that any foreign manufacturer that wants to sell their goods in America adhere to some fundamental standards of environmental responsibility and treatment of workers. Otherwise we will continue to lose jobs here and despite all our environmental rules here, the world environment will grow increasingly toxic.

Let’s review:

Reform Social Security: Private accounts are a smoke screen. If higher returns are really available someplace then it should be the responsibility of Social Security administrators to go get those returns – right now. And, unless they are lying, why shift the responsibility for making winning choices on the backs of 60 million American workers? Make the bastards answer that question.. in public. And, if more money is needed to keep the fund solvent into the next century the fastest way to do that is to simply remove the income cap and start tapping all income. The retired rich get Social Security checks every month too, even though they hardly need the money. So take the caps off. Then if that still leaves a gap, start means testing benefits. And if the Republicans scream that that's "redistribution of wealth," remind them about the Bush tax cuts. If that wasn't the biggest redistribution of wealth in our history I don't know what it was.

Tax Reform: Give tax breaks to people who actually need a few extra bucks a week, not to those who will only pile that money up in some family trust fund, offshore accounts, or both.

Trade Reform: If a foreign manufacturer wants to sell his products and services to the lucrative American market, make them following the same rules American manufacturers must follow. If they think that’s a bit pushy, tough. Take it or leave it.

Jesus, I’m getting crotchety in my old age.

By Stephen Pizzo
Raconteur at Large

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

January 17, 2005

Okay, so this is where I get sideways with my pacifist friends. I’ll lose some readers over this column. But, just as I hate the simplistic thinking on the right, I hate the same on the left. So, here we go.

This past weekend Seymour Hersh broke the news that, since at least last summer, the US has been sending spies into Iran to locate and verify that country’s secret nuclear facilities -- not the ones Iran admits to and allows UN inspectors to check, but the facilities where they are alleged to be working on nuclear bomb technology.

The idea, according to Hersh’s sources, is make sure we get it right this time -- that there really are prohibited facilities and activities in Iran. The first step in assuring that is to collect the proof ourselves this time rather than relying on Iranian opposition groups – since, you might just recall, that kind of lazy-ass intelligence gathering didn’t work so well in Iraq.

If we are able to confirm (really confirm this time) that Iran is working on a nuke at these facilities, and if Iran’s diplomatic initiatives turn out to be a ploy to stall until they have a bomb, then the US can – and should -- preempt an almost certain Israeli strike with air strikes of our own. (Because an Israeli strike on an Arab nation would set an whole different bunch of Arab world dynamics into motion, none of which would be helpful to anyone.)

So, if such US spying in really going on, as Hersh claims, I see it as good news. I only hope those doing the spying are very good at their jobs and the Bush administration will listen to them this time if they return without the kind of proof the administration wants.

But if they are good spies, and if they come back with proof certain that Iran is about to join the nuclear club, bombing the snot out of those installations would be the lesser of evils. The greater evil would be to allow Iran to have The Bomb.

But notice, I said bomb, not invade. Some months ago I posted my national defense policy dubbed the “Don’t Do That” policy. Under that policy we clearly state our absolute bottom line position on key national security issues. We tell those involved “here’s what we are willing to live with. But cross this line and we will respond militarily.”

“That line,” in this case, should be this: “We will NOT allow ANY new members to join the nuclear club. Period. And, any nation or group we discover is about to do so will be stopped, with force if necessary.”

There are some things the modern world can adapt to and live with. Conventional terrorism, for example, is a deadly nuisance, but nations can and do learn to live with it. But, a world bristling with nuclear and biological weapons is not something we can live with. Once nation or terrorist groups possess such weapons they have the ability to kill millions of people in a single attack. At that point the whole equation changes – in their favor.

Yes, I know we’ve heard that argument before. And that’s what worries me most. Americans – and most of the rest of the world -- have been so turned off by the lies the Bush administration told to justify his attack on Iraq that no one will believe our spies if they do come up with the goods about someone’s WMD plans. The Bushies cried wolf and then insulted anyone who dared to suggest that particular wolf was a mirage.

As it turned out there were wolves, just not in Iraq. The Bushies had three choices among their “Axis of Evil” nations and managed to pick the only one of the three that didn’t have active WMD programs. The other two, North Korea and Iran, did, and do, have them.

Now if either is allowed to proceed with their WMD ambitions the game is over. We all might as well forget about putting money into those new private retirement accounts Bush wants to give us and use that money instead for a backyard nuclear/bio shelter. It will be back to the 1950s for Americans, back to MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction,) Only this time the MAD equation won’t as a deterrent as it did against the sane Soviets. Radical Islamists don’t give a fig if they die. (In fact for some who have no chance of getting laid in this life, dying a “martyr” is preferred.)

The answer is to stop things before they get to that point. And the best way to do that is to let those who have to satisfy the daily needs of such countries that having nukes is jut not worth the bother. While extremists in Iran may not care if they die, those who have to run that country care a lot, for example, whether or not their infrastructures gets reduced to rubble by US cruise missiles. Infrastructure is expensive to replace having to continuously replace the same bridges, highways and other key infrastructure is not something they are anxious to do.

A strict militarily enforced embargo is also a pain in the neck.

A key portion of my “Don’t Do That” doctrine is that the only time we send US troops abroad is on surgical missions. Send in Special Forces teams with a specific target, do it, and come home.. one week, in and out. If you can’t do it right and fast with a small force, then find go back to plan A… bombs the snot out of the target. No more US troops stationed in conflict zones. Period.

One argument you will hear from the left against such a policy is that the US is being hypocritical. We have nukes, our European brothers have nukes and the Israelis have nukes. So does India and Pakistan, now a US ally. What right do we have to tell Iran, or anyone else that they can’t have them too?

Man, is that one dumb-ass argument. In fact, it’s not an argument at all; it’s a suicide pact. We need fewer nations with nukes, not more. In fact the nuclear club needs to shrink. First we need to get them away from both Pakistan and India. And, we need to send in a team to nab H.Q. Kahn, the Pakistani scientist who sold nuclear bomb designs to Iran, Libya and North Korea. A message has to be sent that people who trade in this deadly technology if they do that they will never live to spend the money.

And, if things ever settle down in the Holy Land, we need to convince the Israelis to destroy its nukes and come in under the US nuclear umbrella.

Sooner or later, someone is going to have to call North Korea’s bluff. Either they give up their nukes and get with the program right now or no more talking. Preparations begin to remove those weapons “through other means.” I suspect if we made such a statement, made it credible, that bombing N. Korean sites would not be necessary. The last thing China wants is the US bombing the stuffing out of N. Korea. It would extend US power into Asia and would burden China with a flood of N. Korean refugees. Since N.Korea can only survive with uninterrupted Chinese aid, China can, and would, pull Kim’s plug before the US could act. But, if China does not do so, or cannot do so, then we should be act unilaterally.

So, instead of wasting $200 billion a year trying to drag unwilling horses to the democracy well, we should invest a faction of that in smart bombs, smart missiles and surgical strike teams and use them to degrade rogue nation’s capabilities and infrastructure until they comply.

I know many readers will disagree with this. Some will be revolted by the very idea that the US has the right to bomb the snot out weapons facilities in countries that have not attacked us – yet.

But it will take just one nuclear weapon to go off in or near an American city to change that view. Of course, then it will be too late, at least for the people in that city. But once people are reminded just how much death and destruction one small nuke can cause, they will understand that, while bombing other countries may seem mad, allowing new member to the nuclear club is the real madness.

Of course the key here is good intelligence. The US must.. must… MUST have the real goods the next time we go on a WMD hunt. It has to be the kind of evidence able to withstand independent scrutiny. I understand that even real evidence will not convince some. All you have to do it remember two initials to know this is so: “OJ”.” But, while a small number of certifiable imbeciles continue to believe OJ is innocent, the mainstream knows otherwise. And so too will be the case if the US gets the goods this time before it acts. Assuming we do it right the next time, such a preemptive strategy would not only cost us a hell of a lot less in treasure and lives, but less diplomatic damage as well.

And, a steadfast policy like this would put nations that may harbor nuclear and biological weapons ambitions on notice that all they will get for their investment in WMD is some busted up infrastructure. And the same goes for nations who harbor terrorist groups who espouse WMD attacks. No more allowing such host nations the luxury of pretending they don’t know terrorists are using their sovereign territory as a logistical base. After losing a few bridges or pipelines such nations would have to choose between them or their troublesome guests.

My fear is that Bush’s Iraq misadventure has convinced everyone that efforts to stop proliferation of WMD must only be diplomatic -- that any credible military component to such diplomatic efforts are now so discredited they are now useless. Thanks to Bush’s Iraq misadventure, I fear the pendulum has swung too far to the left when it comes to using military force. Not all use of force is wrong. It’s when and how we use it that matters.

Refusing to include a military component to WMD negotiations is simply an invitation to nations like Iran and North Korea to use diplomacy to run out the clock – to jerk everyone around by engaging and disengaging and reengaging in negotiations until they can build up their own nuclear/biological arsenals. Then disengaging for good.

After that we can turn our attention to talking to our kids about what to do when they see a bright flash or smell something funny in the air. It will be back to the future. It’ll be “duck and cover time” again kids. And, if you thought that tsunami made a mess, just wait til you see what a 65-pound-suitcase nuke can do.

(You can read my full “Don’t Do That” national defense strategy HERE.)