Wednesday, June 28, 2006

June 20 - June 27, 2006

Forget An Inconvenient Truth
How About The Ugly Truth

"If a path to the better there be, it begins with a full look at the worst."
-- Thomas Hardy

Here's something you won't read about anywhere but in obscure scientific journals and on bogs run by the kind of survivalists that make you happy you're unprepared and will therefore not have to share the planet with such folk, should they turn out to be right.

Nevertheless this unmentionable is IT -- the whole banana. Everything else bad, flows from it. It's the headwaters of bad -- war, energy shortages, pandemics, terrorism, global warming. Those things, as annoying, frightening and dangerous as they are, are not THE problem, but simply symptoms of THE problem. Whats THE problem? Since we are all in jeopardy, I will frame answer in the form of a question:

“What's the maximum carrying capacity of the earth?”

Any livestock feedlot operator knows exactly how many animals he can maintain at once. Above that number both the facility and animals begin to degrade. It's not just feeding them. More food can always be shipped in. The problem is that, within the confines of a finite facility, living conditions deteriorate once you exceed it's maximum carrying capacity. And once past that tipping point conditions deteriorate at an exponential rate from that point on.

Like it or not, we have something in common with those feedlot animals. We humans too are fenced into a finite space. Yet we keep adding more load every passing second. This week, for example, the US achieved a dubious milestone. There are now 300 million of us. How many more head can we add to our section of the world feedlot? No one is asking. Because, for some reason, population control has become a taboo subject, a sign of intolerance, xenophobic or selfishness when someone seriously poses the question. (Even the first group to try and address this crisis, Zero Population, had to change it's name to The Population Connection because the "zero" business upsetted the religious right in the West, African and Muslim nations.)

But the real reason no one wants to explore this question is that, instinctively, they know the truth they will discover is about as ugly as truth gets. Here it is:

There are currently about 6.6 billion humans on earth, eating, breathing, craping, farting and, increasingly, driving. New Zealand scientists at the Central Institute of Technology are among the few willing to do the numbers. They say the present global population is about 30% more than the earth's biological capacity can sustain at present standards of living. And they are being upbeat about it. I would say, they actually sugar coated this bitter pill.

Those who have dared to venture deeply into this matter have not come up with a single answer when asked to precisely set the sustainable carrying capacity of earth. That's because the answer depends on from what standard of living level one begins the calculation. (See table below) But they predict a range from half a billion to 6 billion, at current western standards of living. The lowest sustainable population levels assume everyone in the world has the kind of basics of a civilized society; good health, nutrition, prosperity, personal dignity and freedom. But note... this calculation (here) assumes a population for the US of something between 100 and 200 million. Here in the US we've already stumbled blindly past the maximum by a cool 100 million souls, and counting.

Despite growing warning signs that humans are already overtaxing earths life support systems, there are billions more on their way. Here's a look at various population maximums based on various standards of living:

Maximum Global Population Guesses
Each of these assumes that the current depletion of fossil fuel reserves has continued to completion. No fossil fuels are left, except possibly for a small stock, priced high, and used for limited durable uses such as new plastic production and for some pharmaceuticals.

1. Everyone at the current U.S. standard of living and with all the health, nutrition, personal dignity and freedom that most Americans currently enjoy [Pimentel, 1999]. 2 billion
2. Everyone at the same affluence level as in 1, but with few restrictions on commerce, pollution, land use, personal behavior (within current law), etc. Basically a libertarian, laissez faire economy, with only limited environmental restrictions. This points out that there is a population price to pay for the current American way of commerce. 0.5 billion
3. Everyone at the same affluence as indicated in 1, but with many and onerous restrictions on freedoms relative to behaviors leading to environmental degradation. In order to accommodate populationlevels greater than 2 billion, restrictions such as the following would have to be instituted: Massive recycling. Driving restrictions (gasolene rationing, fuel rationing even to mass transit systems). Restrictions on the transport of food (food transported no more than 100 miles for example to its point of retail sales). Prohibitions against cutting of trees on one's property. Limitations on the burning of fossil fuels in order to save these complex molecules for more valuable or durable uses, such as in the manufacture of plastics and pharmaceuticals. Limitations on the areas of open spaces that can be converted to renewable energy power plants, such as solar thermal, solar photovoltaic, and wind energy systems. This latter results from the need to preserve natural areas for atmospheric oxygen generation and food growing. Of course many rooftops can accept solar energy systems and this scenario basically assumes a nearly complete saturation of coverage of roof tops and covers over parking lots for solar energy production. 4 billion
4. Only people in the U.S. and Europe at current level of affluence. Everyone else at the current prosperity level of Mexico. 6 billion
5. Everyone in the world at Mexico's current prosperity level. 20 billion
6. Everyone in the world at the current "prosperity" level of Northwest Africa. 40 billion

So, how's that stack up with actual population trends?

Not so good.

You can see that, even if the maximum population numbers in the table above are wildly pessimistic, we are still producing humans at a rate that is clearly unsustainable. The early proof of that pudding is already giving us camps.

So, while Al Gore's great film, An Inconvenient Truth, is laudable, and will bring both red and blue state voters into the green camp, it falls short. Gore's film, like most pro-environment pitches, steers well clear of the touchy matter of population. Oh sure, most of them speak of the social benefits of family planning and limiting the size of families. What no one is talking about, except in China, are programs capable of not just slowing population growth, but reversing it.

If governments can pass laws to limit greenhouse gas emissions, why is it so wrong to also enact programs designed to reduce the number of humans who, just by living, create pollution, exasperate food shortages, build on and/or erode tillable acreage?

And just being less consumptivc is not the answer. For example, the average US citizen, for example, requires about 9.7 hectares to provide resources and space for waste, 205% of what the country can provide. China, which has far more folks per square mile than the US, requires just 1.6 hectares for the average Chinese. Great you say. But that's still 201% of the country's capacity. India uses 0.8 hectares for the average Indian, or 210% of the country's capacity.

So, it's not just teaching folks to use less and be less wasteful. The number of booties on the ground matters much more than simply improving our stewardship of "Spaceship Earth."

If we really want to reverse global warming, and stop repeated famines, and make sure future generations have clean water to drink, the nations of the world need to initiate programs that lead to negative population growth for at least the next century. Then hold population growth to sustainble levels thereafter.

So far only China has taken this problem seriously, not because they wanted to, but because they had to. China is on the point of the population spear. And, thanks to it's one-child law and a peddle-to-the-metal family plainning programs, only China will have fewer people in 2050. Everyone else will have more. Lots more. (See here)

I remember a psychology class I took many decades ago. The professor showed a film of an experiment on the effects of over-crowding on white rats. They crammed more and more rats into a confined cage. First the rats get grouchy. Then they start getting on one another's nerves big time. Fights broke out over nothing. The end of the film showed dozens of the rats hanging from by their teeth from the top of the cage, in search of some semblance of privacy, safety and peace. That haunting image has stayed in my mind for 40 years.

The only difference today is that now I find myself understanding why those rats considered hanging by their teeth a reasonable alternative to what was happening around them.

June 20, 2006

Fill-er Up -
With Food

I'm not a scientist. I don't even play on television. I got a gentleman's “D” in high school physics and chemistry. So nothing I am about to say is based on good science. Okay?

Now, here's what's been bugging me.

I can't believe that the best way out of our dependence on oil
is by burning food in our cars instead.

I am speaking, of course, of the push that on for corn-based ethanol. I've been watching as the media parrots the ballyhoo being pumped out by the strange-bedfellows alliance made up of agri-business, the White House, energy companies and farm-state politicians. To believe the thrust of this PR blitz one would think that corn-based ethanol is the most beneficial thing to hit mankind since penicillin.

But every time I see one of those feel-good stories on the news, showing a huge truck dumping tons of golden corn into the hungry maul of a new ethanol plant, I wonder how that jives -- morally and practically -- with the images that too often precede them on the evening news.. the pictures of all those bony sub-Saharan babies covered with flies as they slowly starve.

That's what got me wondering the other night, as I watch an Archer Daniels "Growing Energy for Today & Tomorrow," ad. It made me wondered if there had ever been a civilization so decadent that it burned food for fuel while millions starved? Was that wrong of me? Well, if so, it's not my faul, it just popped into my head.

If the ethanol folks have their way and Detroit starts cranking out E85 cars by the millions, how are you going to feel when you have to buy one. How will you feel filling up your car with food-juice during the day and then watching starving children on the evening news as some horse's ass in Washington pontificates about how the world needs to do something about that? How will you feel?

Besides snatching surplus corn from the world's starving, the more corn turne into fuel the less of the stuff that will be available for domestic food use, animal feeds, breakfast cereals, nachos, etc. Prices will go up for anything with corn in it. It's basic economics -- supply and demand. Who will suffer most? American families and the working poor, of course. The price of breakfast cereal,. for example, is already high. Just wait until we start pumping it into SUV's instead of our kids. Are you a meat-eater? That meat grew on corn, so get ready for steak-sticker shock.

Yes, we do need to get away from petroleum-based fuels as soon as possible, for both national security and pressing environmental reasons. But again I am forced to ask the question; is burning food the right or moral way to do that?

Corn-holed - again?
Besides that, my reporter's gut tells me we about to be collectively screwed again by the usual suspects. You know who they are. Energy companies have invested trillions of dollars into fuel processing and distribution infrastructure. It's only good for one thing -- making and moving flammable liquids to market. Suddenly their traditional raw material – oil – has become a wasting asset. They needed another flammable liquid suited to their existing storage and distribution infrastructure, and they needed it fast.

Ethanol is it.

A friend in desperate need, can be a friend indeed to another friend in desperate need. And Big Energy found a very needy friend in middle America -- agri-business. Farmers had watched with growing alarm as one federal farm (welfare) subsidy after another disappeared. Farmers, once a political sacred cow, had lost most of its political clout over the past few decades.

Ah, agri-business has gotten its groove back -- by becoming America's very own Saudi Arabia. And who could better show them how to do that than Big Energy companies who were ready, willing and able to help farmers turn their food crops into fuel.

Man, do those energy companies and farm groups know how to build a buzz. "Go Yellow" campaigns, complete with tee-shirts, pro-environment seminars and ads, family farmers whined (again) about the imminent demise of the family farm.

Almost overnight, voting against farmer bordered on voting for terrorists, for dependence on foreign oil and for global warming. Being a farmer growing corn is now a patriotic endeavor.

Not only has ethanol revived the image of corporate farmers. Big energy benefits as well, as they try to use their support for “cleaning burning ethanol” to burnish corporate images that were heading into the shitter right behind Big Tobacco companies.

So what am I trying to say? Nothing scientific, that's for sure. I've read some research materials for and against ethanol. But I still have no idea if corn-based ethanol is better for the environment than oil-based fuels or not. Hell, I'm not even sure if the damn stuff doesn't use as much energy to make as it can produce when you burn it in your car.

I will leave such conclusions to those who got C's and above in science class. But I am pretty damn sure that burning food as a replacement for oil is not a solution the world can live with – literally. It simply does not make sense to me -- on any level.

Nevertheless the ethanol from corn juggernaut is on a roll, and it's going to be tough to stop.

The United States fuel ethanol industry is based largely on corn. As of 2005, its capacity is 15 billion liters annually. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 requires U.S. fuel ethanol production to increase to 28 billion liters (7.5 billion gallons) by 2012. In the United States, ethanol is most commonly blended with gasoline as a blend of up to 10% ethanol, known as E10 and nicknamed "gasohol". This blend is widely sold throughout the U.S. Midwest, which contains the nation's chief corn-growing centers. (Wikipedia)

This is not the first time America has faced a fuel crisis. During World War II gasoline was scarce and innovation sparked a number of unique solutions. For example, I bought a farm in the Midwest back in the 1970s and among the tractors I got with the deal was a 1943 John Deer "all-fuel" tractor. If you poured a liquid into it's tank that burned the damn thing would run on it. It had a big fly wheel on the side you turned by hand to get it started and the weight of that wheel turning kept the tractor running even if the fuel you put in it did not burn very well. The war only lasted four years of so, and as soon as regular old gasoline and diesel were readily available again that kind of "out of the box" innovation stopped. But you know, I bet that little green tractor is still running today, 63 years later. I only wish I stilled owned it.

I have long advocated a Manhattan Project II... a government funded, ten-year, all out program to produce clean, renewable energy. Who knows what our energy picture would be like today if gasoline had remained scarce after WWII? We were certainly heading in some interesting directions at the time. So what we need now is a sustained push, harnessing the best minds in science and engineering until we come up with set of solutions that fit both earth and mankind's needs.

Instead what we have is a solution being shoved down our throats by two groups, Big Energy and Big Agriculture, that are looking after their interests solely.

Ethanol is not the issue, but what we make it of sure as hell is the issue. Corn is not the only way to make ethanol. It's just the most convenient and profitable raw material. And it's politically convenient as well.

So far those with the vested interest are getting what the want. Farm states have their political clout back, energy companies have their replacement for oil and can claim they've "gone green." Politicians have new pork for their barrels, the White House can claim it's doing something to wean us off foreign oil, auto makers get another couple of decades out of their old internal combustion engines.

When American's burn food for fuel it seems everyone wins ...

Well, not everyone.

Cut & Run Liberals

I want to be perfectly clear about this. We liberals really do want to cut and run.

I admit it. We are cut and run liberials, just as Karl Rove alleges. More than that, I am proud of it and encourage more Americans to join us.

We are liberal/progressives and, damn it, we want to cut and run:

We want to cut and run from the borrow and spend, borrow and spend economics of the GOP that have piled an additional $4 trillion in debt onto our children, grand children and great grand children.

We want to cut and run from the unholy alliance between the GOP and energy companies that have left us at the mercy of a bunch of medieval Islamic tribal leaders who run their own countries like feudal states and treat their own people -- especially their women -- worse than Americans treat farm animals.

We want to cut and run from a national health care system designed by and for giant health care and pharmaceutical interests, that enriches a few while leaving 45 million Americans without affordable health insurance.

We want to cut and run from a government which, over the past six years, has become not only increasingly closed to public scrutiny and accountability, but overtly hostile and suspicious of citizens who insist on either.

We want to cut an run from a style of governance that not only plays on fear and petty prejudices, but cultivates and exploits them for cheap political gain. The cynical, dishonest purposeful pitting of majority populations against minority groups on the grounds that they don't share “American values,” and then later deny responsibility for the entirely predictable destructive consequences of those tactics.

We want to cut and run from policies that view science and scientists as adversaries whose findings must sometimes be suppressed, while embracing, even endorsing, religious dogmas that have no basis in fact whatsoever.

We want to cut and run from GOP economic polices that have handed the already wealthy a couple of trillion dollars in tax cuts while leaving working Americans payroll tax virtually untouched.

We want to cut and run from GOP economics that argue – with a straight face – that the minimum wage of $5.15 an hour should not be raised to a still unlivable $7.25 an hour because doing so would “hurt low wage workers.”

We want to cut and run from policies that scoff at mandating substantially higher fuel millage standards, even as the fossil fuels run out and the effects of global warming become more apparent with each passing day.

We want to cut and run from policies that justify turning “the land of the free and home of the brave,” into place where none of us can any longer feel sure that the government isn't listening to our private phone calls, reading our emails or isn't keeping an eye on us from a pole-mounted camera on the corner.

We want to cut and run from an administration that wraps inconvenient truths in the opaque blanket of national security while justifying selective disclosure of classified information for purely political reasons -- such as the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame, and the now discredited disclosures that Iraq had tried to buy uranium ore from Niger.

We want to cut and run from policies that allow religious extremists to determine what medical procedures or family planning medications women will be allowed access to.

We want to cut and run from policies that allow our government to decide which American citizens will be allowed to enter into legally recognized committed relationships, and which will be banned by law from doing so.

We want to cut and run from policies that encourage counseling and treatment for Americans suffering from alcohol addiction, but incarceration for those suffering drug addiction.

We want to cut and run from cynically selective policies that treat some dictators as friends of America and others as enemies requiring a deadly dose of regime change.

We want to cut and run from policies that are increasingly militarizing entirely domestic matters, such as internal terrorist threats, border control and domestic law enforcement, particularly the gathering of intelligence on political groups and movements.

We want to cut and run from policies that allow industries government is supposed to regulate for the public good, to write the very rules under which they will be regulated.

Do we want to cut and run from Iraq? I wish the hell we could. But that fat is already in the fire. Liberals understand we can't cut and run from Iraq. But whose fault is it that we're stuck there now? Not ours, that's for sure. We would like to see US troops leave Iraq as soon as possible -- but not in a way that would make matters worse for ordinary Iraqis than our invasion already has.

In the meantime we are not about to let the very neocons that got us into that mess shift the blame onto liberials who oppose the war. You guys started it and that dead chicken is hung around your necks, not ours. So, Karl, stop the blame-shifting and wear it like man.

But Karl is right when he calls us "cut and run liberals." As you can see the list of things we do want to cut and run from is a long one.

We are cut and run liberals. And proud of it.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

June 7 - June 19, 2006

June 17, 2006


"Boldness be my friend!"

If you are like me you just get weary listening to the weaselly crap both Republicans and Democrats peddle daily to us in the hopes something they say will “resonate.” with one demographic or another.

I was listening the Hillary Clinton's tortured logic earlier this week as she tried to explain to Democrat activists that she was against what Bush is doing in Iraq, but is also against setting a date for withdrawal. But what's she “for.”

Hell if I know – or at this point, care any longer.

So I was moping around this morning, feeling lower than the axles of tricked out low-rider, when it occurred to me that I am probably not alone... not by long shot. What I want more than anything else these days is for someone – I don't even care which party they are in – just someone, to take genuine bold action. Bold. Not parsed to the nth degree. Not Bermuda-triangulated to cognitive oblivion. But bold. The kind of stuff that makes you shoot coffee through your nose when you read it in your morning paper, bold.

So I cooked up a wish list of bold positions that I want to see in my paper in the coming weeks and months. I don't care what order they arrive. I'll take any one of the following announcements on any day.

Health Care: Acknowledging that only a single-payer health insurance system can be both profitable and cover everyone, Congress passes America's first national universal health insurance system. The new entity would be a public/private partnership run by the private sector but regulated and underwritten by government, much the same way Freddie Mac ad Fannie Mae serve the residential marketplace as GSE's “Government Sponsored Entities.” (Minus, of course, the fat-cat abuse recently discovered at those two GSE's.

Illegal Immigration: Forget the fence. Congress increases funding and staffing for a national network of workplace immigration auditors. Businesses are provided on-line tools inorder to verify citizenship, much like the national database gun shops are now required to use before selling someone a firearm. Business with more than 100 employees will have their employment records audited without notice at least once a year. Penalties for knowingly hiring illegal immigrants will be enforced with a vengeance and violators listed on a publicly on the Web.

National Energy Policy: Congress funds “Manhattan Project II” – a crash 10-year program to replace oil and coal with renewable, sustainable, non-polluting energy sources The Manhattan II Project would be funded by a 50 cent tax on all gas and oil products, except for those used for home heating.

Campaign Reform: Since the Supreme Court has ruled that money in politics is equal to free speech, Congress passes a constitutional amendment requiring that all national campaigns for House, Senate and Presidential be funded solely from special, federal campaign fund. The money in this fund would come from a small surtax on all individual, businesses and corporations and the money distributed in equal amounts to any candidate that gathers at least 10% of primary votes.

Lobbying Reform: Congress passes a total prohibition of all forms of lobbyist-provided gratuities, including trips on private planes at below-market ticket prices. Any “fact finding” trips sponsored by interest groups must first be approved by the House and Senate ethics committees and listed on a public website at least 30-days before departure to allow for public comment and/or protest.

Open Government: Congress passes an open government law modeled after California's Brown Act, requiring that all the publics' business be conducted in public, excluding only matters involving personnel, national security and Supreme Court deliberations. (Under such a law Cheney's energy task force meetings would have been illegal.)

Budgeting: Congress passes a balanced budget amendment requiring that the nation's annual budgets be in balance, except in time on congressionally approved war or formally declared national emergency.

Taxes: Congress repeals the Bush tax cuts for the top 1% of earners and shifts those savings to individuals earning under $30,000 a year (couples earning under $60,000.) For wage earners these tax savings would be reflected as a cut in their payroll tax.

A Livable Wage: Congress mandates an increase in the minimum wage to $10 an hour -- and (this time) indexes the minimum wage to inflation so it will never again fall behind.

National Security: Congress formally adopts News For Real's “Don't Do That” national defense strategy.

Iraq: Congress ties further funding for the war in Iraq to a blueprint that requires the President to begin to disentangle the US from it's presence in that country. The plan begins with a six month deadline to move all US troops to Iraq's borders to provide border security, air and logistical support for the emerging Iraqi security force. Six months later US troops must begin an orderly withdrawal from Iraq with all troops out of that country by the end of 2007.

Want More Bold Moves ?

General Motors: The company announces that the “GM” brand will no longer stand for General Motors, but for “Green Machines.” In 2008 model year GM will begin a company-wide transition away from the internal combustion engine. Until better technologies are mature GM will begin by producing only hybrid non-commercial vehicles. Ultimately the company's announced goal is to, within a decade, be the first auto company to offer a full fleet of fuel-cell/electric powered vehicles.

Iran: Congress announces it will refuse to support any Iraq-style preemptive military action on Iran and instead sends the White House a copy of the “Don't Do That” strategy.

Venezuela: Butt out.

Cuba: Butt in -- but in a nice way for a change. Lift the travel ban and embargo.

Mexico: The President announces that we must stop pretending that Mexico is anything but what it is -- a nearly dysfunctional, feudal nation on our border. A country run by a clique of elite crooks who exploit and oppress their own people, export their labor surpluses and welfare costs to the US, while looting the Mexican treasury and their country's natural resources. And that henceforth we will treat Mexico and it's leaders accordingly.

Gitmo: Close it. Transfer the prisoners to a maximum security prison in the US and begin a 90-day review of each case, after which each prisoner must be either formally charged, provided a lawyer and tried, or released immediately and returned to their home country. Those that can make a case that they would be harmed if forced to return to their home countries could apply for temporary residence in the US and would have their petitions heard within 60 days of release.

As I said above, any one of those things would be rare shaft of sunlight into what has become a very gloomy and dispiriting picture of America's leadership. If all of those bold moves came to pass it really would finally be “morning in America.” Politicians misread Americans. We are not only ready for bold ideas, but starved for them. We don't lack bold ideas, what we lack are bold leaders.

Which why none of the above will come to pass, and why it is likely to instead remain 'mourning in America,” at least for the foreseeable future.

"Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now."
J.W.Von Goethe

June 7, 2006
Congressional Castration

Am I missing something? I mean, I wasn't exactly an "A" student in civics class, but I do clearly recall that the way the US Constitution was written – and remains unamended – is that Congress passes bills, the President either signs them into law or vetoes them. If he signs a bill it becomes a law that the President/executive branch is tehn constitutionally required to enforce.

Am I wrong about that? Did I miss passage of a constitutional amendment that changed the balance of power established by our founders?

If not, then the President of the United States has broken the law, not just once, but hundreds of times.

That's how many times this guy has signed bills into law and then, after the camera left signed a separate document he calls “a signing statement,” that, in effect, says “Just kidding. Now, here's which parts of that bill I just signed I will enforce and which parts a I won't enforce.”

Phillip Cooper is a leading expert on signing statements, in fact he wrote the book on the subject: By Order of the President: The Use and Abuse of Executive Direct Action. Two years ago Cooper wrote that George W. Bush had issued 23 signing statements in 2001; 34 in 2002, raising 168 constitutional objections; 27 statements in 2003, raising 142 constitutional challenges, and 23 statements in 2004, raising 175 constitutional criticisms. In total, during his first term Bush raised a remarkable 505 constitutional challenges to various provisions of legislation that became law.

That was number has now passed 750.

The White House claims all this is constitutionally kosher. But how can it be? Would someone explain to me how these noxious signing statements are any different from the line item veto, that the US Supreme Court ruled was unconstitutional?

If you read one of Bush's signing statements they read very much like a line item veto, “yes to this part of the bill, no to this part, “ etc. Sure looks like a duck to me.

For those of you unfamiliar with a Bush signing statement here's a short example. Bush signed this little gem right after signing the USA Patriot Act “Improvement and Reauthorization Act,” earlier this year. President hailed that bill in a pre-signing statement for the cameras. What he didn't mention was the little piece of paper under that bill that he would sign once everyone left the room. Here it is:

President's Signing Statement on H.R. 199, the "USA PATRIOT Improvement and Reauthorization Act of 2005"

Today signed into law H.R. 3199, the "USA PATRIOT Improvement and Reauthorization Act of 2005," and then S. 2271, the "USA PATRIOT Act Additional Reauthorizing Amendments Act of 2006." The bills will help us continue to fight terrorism effectively and to combat the use of the illegal drug meth-amphetamine that is ruining too many lives.

The executive branch shall construe the provisions of H.R. 3199 that call for furnishing information to entities outside the executive branch, such as sections 106A and 119, in a manner consistent with the President's constitutional authority to supervise the unitary executive branch and to withhold information the disclosure of which could impair foreign relations, national security, the deliberative processes of the Executive, or the performance of the Executive's constitutional duties.

The executive branch shall construe section 756(e)(2) of H.R. 3199, which calls for an executive branch official to submit to the Congress recommendations for legislative action, in a manner consistent with the President's constitutional authority to supervise the unitary executive branch and to recommend for the consideration of the Congress such measures as he judges necessary and expedient.

March 9, 2006.

“Shall construe?” Who the hell gives a fig how the president “construes” something he about to sign? Surely not the US Constitution. And most certainly the courts don't care. I've read a lot of Supreme Court cases where the “intent of Congress,” in passing a bill was central to the case. But I have never heard of a case in which the “intent of the President” in signing a bill was given a centella of regard. Because it doesn't matter, constitutionally. If the court sees that a President signed a bill, rather than vetoing it, they consider it prima facia evidence of only one thing – that the president intended to sign the bill into law. And not some of it, but all of it.

(Besides, when it comes to "construing,"the meaning of laws, isn't that the job of the third branch or government, the courts? Is Bush claiming that right now as well? Our newly self-minted Construer in Chief-Justice?)

Therefore, can any party of the first, second, third or millionth part, explain to me why not a single member of Congress is yet to drag this White House into court over this clear and present attack on the constitutions' separation of powers?

After all, established law (stare decisis) is on the side of the angles in this matter. We've been here before, and not that long ago either. The Supreme Court settled this matter with a clear and unambiguous decision in 1998. The Court it ruled against a law congress passed that granted the president the power to pick and chose which budget items he will or will not enforce, the line item veto. The Court struck it down and told both Congress and the president that, if they wanted to rearrange the constitutional balances of power, the only constitutionally legal way is with a constitutional amendment.

“U.S. District Court Judge Thomas F. Hogan decided on February 12, 1998 that unilateral amendment or repeal of only parts of statutes violated the U.S. Constitution. This ruling was subsequently affirmed on June 25, 1998 by a 6-3 decision of the Supreme Court of the United States in the case Clinton v. City of New York.” Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, in a concurrence of the opinion of the Court, objected to the argument that the Act did not violate principles of the separation of powers and threaten individual liberty, stating that the "undeniable effects" of the Act were to "enhance the President's power to reward one group and punish another, to help one set of taxpayers and hurt another, to favor one State and ignore another." (More)

Bush's signing statements are an even more egregious constitutional insult than the line item veto. At least the line item veto was granted to the president by congress. This time congress wasn't even asked. Bush simply claimed this power for himself. And, as least so far, has he's gotten away with it.

So, I ask again, why has no member of congress filed suit? You would think that they would at least be offended. Besides being unconstitutional, Bush signing statements are also condescending. They might as well be worded like this:

To: Congress
From: The President of the United States

To Whom it May Concern:
I have read you bill noted above and, I signed it in front of the TV cameras with you around me smiling jackals. Because I understand you need to show your constituents back home that you really are doing something up here after all.

But I didn't like some of the parts of the bill you gave me. But rather than embarrass you with a veto or -- God forbid! -- provide you an opportunity to embarrass me with veto override, I will simply ignore the parts of this bill I don't like.

So, for your records, here is my marked up copy of your bill. For your convenience I drew a little happy face :-) next to the sections I will enforce, and a little frowny face :-( next to the sections I intend to ignore.

Now, y'all all have a nice day.
George W. Bush :-)

This administration has usurped plenty of congressional power over the last six years as well as chipping away at the third “co-equal” branch of government, the courts. But Bush's signing statements, which treat congressional legislation like boxes of See's candy, is the most blatant, obnoxious and dangerous coup of them all.

“These signing statements are to Bush and Cheney's presidency what steroids were to Arnold Schwarzenegger's body building. Like Schwarzenegger with his steroids, Bush does not deny using his signing statements; does not like talking about using them; and believes that they add muscle. But like steroids, signing statements ultimately lead to serious trouble.”

(John W. Dean, Former White House Counsel under Nixon)

Where's congress today? Well, the Senate is voting on an ammendent to the constition -- to protect us from the scourge of same-sex marriages.

Where are key Democrats?

Hey, Hillary, tell us if you will, which poses the greatest threat to the American way of life -- flag burning or presidential signing statements? Hmmm? Tough one huh?

Hello members of congress! Is anyone home any longer? Did you all forget that the Supreme Court is just across the street? Hell, you could pitch a briefcase full of Bush's signing statements and hit the goddamn place.

Shouldn't you be storming the steps of the Supreme Court, frothing at the mouth, lawyers in tow, demanding the court's immediate and urgent attention to this attack on the legislative branches' constitutional power?

Shouldn't you be? After all, didn't each of you take the oath pledging to “obey and protect the US Constitution?”

Or did you have your own little signing statement tucked into your pocket when took that oath? Maybe you signed later. You know, “just kidding.” That would explain it. That's about the only thing that would explain it.

I look forward more and more with each passing day to the first Tuesday of November. Because on that day I'm going into the voting booth loaded for bear -- encumbant bear.

Shame on you. You are beneath contempt.

All of you.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

May 22- June 6, 2006

Protect The Children They Say...
Okay. Let's

I wasn't going to write today. But then I got an earful from our Ignoramus in Chief. Forget the mounting death tolls in both Iraq and Afghanistan, George Bush has more important matters on his mind.

Pay attention damn it! George W. Bush knows a threat to the American way of life when he sees one, and he sees one: Gay marriage.

With the November mid-term elections just five months away it's time to stir up the crazies. And nothing gets them crazier than the idea of two men or two women getting hitched. The death of 2500 American soldiers in Iraq bothers them too. But those concerns can be pushed into the background with just one TV ad showing a couple of interior decorator types taking marriage vows.

Don't assume I find this old rightwing ploy offensive because I have dog in that fight. Not so. Hell, I still haven't seen Brokeback Mountain because the sight of two guys sucking face makes me hack up my popcorn. I'm not saying there's a thing wrong with it, it's just not my thing and prefer not to watch. I'm sure they feel the same way, visa versa.

But that adults have the right to kiss, sleep with or marry another adult – of whatever flavor -- is not a matter worthy of any lawmaker's attention.

But the rightwing blitz is already begun. TV ads are running that condemn gay marriages because such unions “deprive children of a mother or father.”

Well, if that's what they are worried about, then I have a solution.

Democrats, pay attention, damn it. Democrats should propose an amendment to this stupid bill... an amendment that stipulates that if children having both a mother and father is such a concern, then the measure should also outlaw divorce or separation for couples with children under 18.

Nothing deprives more children of a father or mother than divorce. Half of all marriages now end in divorce. Gay marriage is not even in the top dozen reasons for children lacking a mother or father. Divorce is the No. 1 reason. Out of marriage births are No. 2. And both are almost exclusively hetro sexual events.

So, if the rightwing's purpose in trying to outlaw same-sex marriage is, as they claim, to spare kids single-parenthood, then put divorce right up there in the penal code with child abuse and abandonment.

I have long advised Democrats – and they have long ignored me – that the only way to expose the hypocrisy of the right is to force them to vote on precisely the things they claim they want. So, would one you up there on The Hill add an amendment to this measure protecting children from not having “a mother and a father” in the home by outlawing divorce or separation, until the kids are grown. I want to see how the other side juggles that logic with their stated reasons for banning gay marriages.

Then, let the games begin.

June 1, 2006

When Does Personal Responsibility
Get Personal With this Guy?

Last week I was having coffee with a friend and wondered out loud, “What would it be like to just stop paying attention for a while,” I asked. "You know, just blow the news of the day off for a week, or month, or even a whole year. Then, when the time was up, look up and see how things went and where going."

I tried, but I only lasted a week. Then I looked up and saw that during my short sabbatical;

Afghanistan has become another Iraq:
KAUBUL: A deadly traffic accident caused by a U.S. military convoy touched off anti-American rioting Monday that left at least five Afghans dead and scores injured in the capital Kabul - a city that was supposed to be the safest place in the country....The riots revealed a disturbing truth: At a time when the United States has enough trouble in Iraq, Afghanistan is increasingly beginning to resemble that war. (More)

American soldiers in Iraq had gone berserk:
HADITHA: Damaging fresh details have emerged of a massacre of Iraqi civilians by US forces in the western city of Haditha, which is rapidly becoming a domestic scandal in the United States on the scale of the Abu Ghraib prison abuse. (More)

After promising troop reductions, more US troops were being sent to Iraq:
WASHINGTON — U.S. military commanders are moving about 1,500 troops from a reserve force in Kuwait into the volatile Anbar province in western Iraq to help local authorities establish order there. "The United States stands ready to help the Iraqi democracy succeed," President Bush said yesterday...The troop movement, announced earlier by military commanders, comes as Iraqi officials continue to struggle to set up their government, amid new spikes in violence. (More)

Ethnic cleansing had come all the rage in Iraq:
BASRA, IRAQ: The proportion of Sunni Muslims in Basra has declined from 40% to 15%, after three years of forced immigration, said the chairman of a religious authority in Iraq. (More)

BAGHDAD: Anyone in the wrong place at the wrong time has become a target. And that includes Iraqis who belong to the "wrong" ethnic or religious group for the area in which they have lived all their life. Ethnic cleansing is rife, as practiced in the disintegrating Yugoslavia. (More)

Then I made the mistake of switching on CNN, and there was President Bush responding to a reporter's question about the Haditha massacre. “If the investigation shows there was wrong doing those responsible will be punished,” he said, with a shrug.

It was at that moment that the following question popped into my mind:

Just when do any of these messes become the personal responsibility of this Command in Chief?

For example, when will he accept personal responsibility for putting those young soldiers into that nerve-fraying, crazy-making, heads-they-win, tails-we-lose war in the first place? When does this Commander in Chief take responsibility for thrusting those still maturing American kids, armed to the teeth, into that madhouse of nation? A made up nation where, even in the best of times, people born there kill one another over centuries old religious slights. When does their Commander in Chief acknowlede that was a mistake? A deadly mistake.

And when will this Commander in Chief accept responsibility for his arrogant refusal to listen to those who warned him that what has happened would happen if he sent Western troops to occupy a nation in the very heart of the Muslim empire? Was this Commander completely unfamiliar with Harold Lamb's work chronicling what happened during the second half of the 12th century -- the last time some pulled this kind of stunt? ( "The Crusades: The Flame of Islam?") Might he have at least considered curling up with this instructive account before sending other parent's kids to fight, be maimed for life or die in such a demonstrably fool's errand?

When does this Commander in Chief fess up to the error he made when he refused to give a moment's consideration to warnings that Iraq could become another Vietnam? And instead sent young soldiers off to -- once again -- fight an enemy able to dissolve into the local scenery, dressed like civilians? And where some of those civilians literally blow up in their faces, at the most inconspicuous times and in the most innocent of places?

When does it become this Commander in Chief's fault when one of those young soldiers snaps? Is it when a National Guard unit, made up of clerks, accountants and carpetners, is on it's second deployment to Iraq? Or it's third? Or it's forth? Is it when a 19-year Marine, fresh out of ITR Camp Pendleton, sees his buddy's brains dripping off their Humvee's dashboard? Or is it when that young Marine turns to defend himself and all he can see the line of fire are dozens of cheering, stone throwing Iraqi civilians? Is that when it becomes the Commander in Chief's responsibility? Or will he walk away from his responsibility here as he has so often before? After all, the Commander in Chief promised his troops they'd recieve hero's welcome. He promised him roses. Instead their buddies lie in pieces in front of them while the folks they were sent to “liberate” appear grotesquely pleased about that.

Then there's the little matter of Afghanistan... the only military invasion the Commander in Chief was given clear and unambiguous authority to wage in the wake of 9/11. When will he take personal responsibility for losing that war by performing the military equivalent of coitus interruptus? Allowing Osama and his minions time to escape, and regroup and to fight another day -- another year, another decade?

There's lots more personal responsibly still awaiting recognition of ownership by this Commander in Chief; Abu Ghraib, New Orleans, the fact that the number of Americans that can't afford basic health insurance has swollen to one in six, (50 million,) during his watch, that the wealthy have gotten obscenely more so while the working poor work more for less and less. He has accepted ownership of none of that. The buck, it would seem, never stops on this President's, this Commander in Chief's, desk.

Well wait. That's not entirely ture. I noticed that, during Tony Blair's visit, President Bush did admit making a couple of mistakes. No, it wasn't for creating conditions that led to the torturing war prisoners, or for violating one of America's core founding principals by holding prisoners without charges for years, or for attacking another country without provocation, or spying on Americans without a warrant, or for being proven dead wrong on global warming, or that his energy policies have left us hostage to Middle Eastern oil.... .. or any of that.

Instead, begudgingly, like a little kid forced to apologize to the class, he mubbled he was sorry -- sorry he had allowed some barroom swagger to slip out in public. For taunting Islamic militants in Iraq to “bring it on,” -- which they did, and continue to. And for declaring he bin Laden, “wanted dead or alive.” Four years later Osama is still "wanted" and still quite alive.

Nevertheless, President George W. Bush, Commander in Chief, wanted us to know he's really sorry for shooting his mouth off like that.

What about all the other stuff that's gone wrong on his watch? Well, he assures us his people are looking into all of it. And, if they discover any wrong doing, those responsible will be punished.

Meanwhile, millions of people not responsible for any of this have, and will continue, paying a horrific price for this man's decisions. So many dead. So many wounded. So many living in fear. So much misery for so little gain.

I have to believe that at some point in time, there will be a day of reconking. There must be. We owe it to those who have been lost and to our children and their children. Such things cannot be allowed to happen in America's name and go unpunished -- or else such things will surely happen again.

May 25, 2006

Bring in the Clowns

"We've turned into this nation of overfed clowns, riding around in clown cars, eating clown food, watching clown shows. We've become a nation of cringing, craven fuckups."
James Howard Kunstler,
Author, The Long Emergency.

When I saw this Kunstler quote a couple of weeks ago I thought it a bit harsh. Then I picked up my morning yesterday – and all at once, I got it.

There, in 120 point bold headline type, above the fold, the lead story of the day, was the "news" that:

In less than 24 hours, singer Taylor Hicks would battle singer Katharine McPhee for the title of American Idol!

Clowns. We have indeed become a nation of frivolous, self-indulgent, over-weight, under-educated, un-serious, clowns. When an event of such monumental unimportance wins precious front page status, what other conclusion can be reached?

Art has stopped imitating life and simply become a substitute for it. I flashed back to the 1967 cult TV series “The Prisoner,” starring Patrick McGoohan -- a British spy kidnapped and imprisoned on an island with an Orwellian-like society. Each morning radios, newspapers and speakers announced it was “another wonderful day on the island.” Everyday, was another wonderful day. There never was a bad day - never mind that everyone on the island was a prisoner.

And so it has come to pass on our island, where the papers, radios and TV's no longer differentiate between news and entertainment. Where American Idol finals get Page 1 treatment and genocide in Darfur is pushed deep inside the paper in the shadow of a ½ page Best Buys ad trumpeting a sale on iPod accessories.

“Oh lighten up Pizzo ! People need entertainment as much as they need to know about all the bad news out there.”

Yeah, fine. But let's keep the entertainment news in the entertainment section of the paper where it belongs. Can we do that? Oh, and keep the sports news on the sports page as well. The only time I want to see the name “Barry Bonds,” in the news section of the paper is if major league baseball ever kicks his cheating ass out of the game. Or if he robs a bank. Or if George Bush appoints Barry head of the FDA. Otherwise keep him and all other baseball-relating “news” where it belongs.. in the frigging sports section.

And, unless the losing singer on American Idol pulls a gun and opens fire after hearing the verdict, everything else about that show belongs in the entertainment section and NOT on my goddamn front page.

The same rules apply to everyone and anyone whose only claim to fame is that they sing, dance, submerge themself in a plexi-glass globe, eat the most hot dogs in the shortest time or own a cute dog that fetches beer on command.

None of that is news. Not one word, factoid or photo-op of it is news.

It's not as if there was not real news the day American Idol found it's way onto my front page. During that same news cycle almost anything that happened in Iraq was more important, as were the doings that day on Capitol Hill, at the White House, the Pentagon, the State Department or in nut-basket (and soon to be nuclear armed nut-basket) Iran. On the day my paper put American Idol above the fold on the front page the editors could have thrown a dart at that list of the above news makers and found a story more worthy of the front page.

Who wins or loses on American Idol may send a few thousand teenage girls squealing off in tears, but that's about the extent of the damage. On the other hand we live in extraordinarily dangerous times. A convergence of economic, geopolitical and environmental challenges confront the human race... any one of which could tomorrow trigger a series of events that would turn all our lives inside out. Any one of which deserved the front page space given to American Idol.

So, news editors everywhere, let's get back to treating the front page as the sacred trust it is – the place reserved for the most important news we need to know that day in order to exercise our responsibilities as citizens and members of the human race.

The mainstream media has become complicit in the “clowninization” of the American public. As more and more newspapers and broadcast entities are gobbled up by a handful of giant media conglomerates the news business has become a circulation/ratings game. News people now cover entertainers as though they are news makers. And, as if that's not bad enough, news people themselves now become entertainers – appear on Larry King Live and then interview one another. News men become show men -- the news biz, show biz.

Media companies feel they have to lure us in by blending news and entertainment into a single tasty, calorie-filled but nutrition-free product. Once hell-raisers they are becomng clown makers.

Aren't you embarrassed? Well damn it, you oughta be !

The Equal Opportunity Wedgie

There's an old saying that goes, “Life is what happens while you're making plans.” The same thing can be said for politics. Both parties burn up most of their waking hours trying to find wedge issues that will separate voters from the opposing party and send them fleeing into their camp.

But while so occupied stuff happens out here in the real world -- real stuff. Then, all of a sudden, right out of the blue, both parties find themselves confronted by angry voters yelling about something else entirely. Worse yet, it turns out to be an issue voters in both parties are mad as hell about and blaming them – all of them – for letting get out of control.

Immigration – more precisely, illegal immigration, is one of those party line blurring popular revolts. And it arrived at the worst possible political moment for the two parties as a critical mid-term election looms in November. Members of both parties don't know whether shit or go blind, so they're all running around up there with one eye closed farting.

Illegal immigration, you see, is an equal opportunity wedgie:

Cloth-coat Republican voters, seeing entry-level jobs for their children disappearing and school class rooms turning from towers of learning to Towers of Babel, want the borders sealed.

Mink-coat Republican pols, beholden to big business, want the flow of serf-workers to continue unimpeded.

Minority-vote mining Democrat consultants warn that Dems must pander to what demographers predict is the ethnic group about to eclipse African-Americans -- Hispanic voters -- and round them up before the Republicans capture them first.

With labor union membership dropping like rock, Big Labor sees Mexican immigration as fresh blood – and dues. But their old rank and file members – many now unemployed due to outsourcing and cheap immigrant labor – want illegal immigration stopped in its tracks.

Republicans, already feeling heat from their fiscally conservative base over exploding deficits, are having a tough time explaining how they are going to pay the estimated half a trillion dollars it will cost the treasury over a decade to cover legalized illegals' Medicare, education and other social services they will become eligible to receive after they are legalized.

"Pressure from the White House to rush an immigration bill isn’t stopping Sen. Jeff Sessions (R.-Ala.) from forcing his colleagues to pay attention to the $50 billion per year economic drain the Senate’s amnesty bill would put on Americans." (Full Story)

Democrats are having a tough time explaining to their unemployed/under-employed working class voters why America needs a fresh flood of cheap, surplus labor.

Republicans are having a tough time explaining why illegals should be treated as felons while the employers that profit from illegal labor are not charged with a crime and instead crowd their list of top political contributors.

English speaking voters in both parties were offended by the Democrat's Senate leader, Harry Reid's description of them as “racists,” just because they want English designated the language of record within the confines of the US club.

Wow! What a mess. Who's right? Who's left? Somewhere in such an enormous pile of horse manure there's gotta be at least one pony we can all ride.

So let's see if we can clear the underbrush and find a simple, logical and just set of bottom line essentials:

* Immigrant rights groups argue that "no human being is illegal.” True as stated, but off the subject entirely. Those who enter the US illegally are, of course, legal humans. Which does nothing to change the fact that they are also illegal immigrants. We are never going to get to a solution in this matter throwing non-sequiturs, like that "illegal human" beaut, into this serious debate.
* No wall, no matter how high or how long, will solve the illegal immigrant problem. Remember the Vietnamese boat people? Remember the Haitian refugees crowded on boats heading for Florida like an armada? Those in Congress itching to build a wall need to spend some time with a map. If they did they would notice that Mexico enjoys Pacific, Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico and Baja Gulf coastlines. Assuming we could hermetically seal our land border all it would do is shift the burden for enforcement from the Border Patrol to the US Coast Guard. (And instead of dying of dehydration in the desert, poor immigrants would drown at sea.)
* Just as America's drug problems are not caused by suppliers but users, the same is true for illegal immigrant labor. Kill the demand for it and you cut the problem of illegal immigration by 90%. So, instead of sending the National Guard to the border, require employers to confirm the worker's status before hiring them.
* The IRS and Social Security Administration maintains lists of employers who have submitted false SSI numbers for employees. One large agricultural company used the same Social Security number over 2500 times last year to identify it's employees. That would be a good place to start rounding up both illegals and the folks hiring them.
* Immigration advocates say immigrants “do jobs Americans won't do,” which again misses the point entirely. The correct way to put it is, “jobs Americans won't do for slave wages.” Raise the US minimum wage to $10 a hour.

Okay, enough. I want to add one more voice to this. He's been called a loud-mouth, a racist, the predominant spokesman for American xenophobia by pro-immigration groups. But, I think he has this one right.

Dobbs: Bush, Congress tell working folk to go to hell

By Lou Dobbs

NEW YORK (CNN) -- President Bush says that the installation of the new Iraqi government was a "watershed event," but at the same time warns Americans of the challenges and loss as we continue to prosecute the war against Iraqi insurgents. Sen. Harry Reid declares that legislation that would render English the national language is racist.

Thirty-seven Democrats vote for full amnesty for all illegal aliens in this country, even though nobody really knows whether the number is 11 million, 12 million or 20 million. The Senate Republican leadership demands that a "comprehensive immigration reform" plan must be passed before this Memorial Day weekend. And the president signs into law a tax cut that raises taxes on the educational funds of teenagers saving for college.

Never before in our country's history have both the president and Congress been so out of touch with most Americans. Never before have so few of our elected officials and corporate leaders been less willing to commit to the national interest. And never before has our nation's largest constituent group -- some 200 million middle-class Americans -- been without representation in our nation's capital.

George W. Bush's approval ratings have slumped to the lowest of his presidency. The approval rating for Congress is even lower, and nearly three-quarters of Americans believe the country is headed in the wrong direction.

But what is our government doing about that? The president is staying the course in Iraq and apparently demanding little of his generals to create a new, far more effective strategy for urgent success. Of course, he also wants a guest-worker program and amnesty of millions of illegal aliens. And Congress, faced with midterm elections in just over five months, is intent on giving the president what he wants and telling working men and women and their families, American citizens all, to go to hell.

Illegal aliens are more important to this Congress than securing our borders and our ports, more important than those legal immigrants who have waited in line and who follow the law. The Senate has added to the litany of lunacy that makes up what it calls reform: Illegal aliens would only have to pay back taxes on three of the past five years, they will not be prosecuted for felonies such as identity theft or purchasing or using fraudulent Social Security cards, and unlike millions of visa holders who have to leave the country to have them renewed, they may simply remain in the United States while this Congress and this president give away all the benefits and privileges of American citizenship.

This is an outright assault in the elitist war on the middle class. And working men and women who've already borne the pain of losing good-paying manufacturing jobs and having middle-class jobs outsourced to cheap foreign labor markets are faced with the onslaught of more illegal immigration and cheap labor into the American economy. This president and Congress talk about bringing illegal aliens out of the shadows while they turn out the lights on our middle class.

President Bush and his most trusted advisers tell us how well our economy is doing, how many jobs have been created and how so-called free trade will enrich the lives of the same people whose livelihoods these policies are destroying.

It's hard not to think of the trusted adviser to Catherine the Great who sought to hide from her the embarrassing and shoddy condition of Ukrainian and Crimean villages by having elaborate facades built to divert her attention and to mask an uncomfortable reality. I don't know whether Karl Rove is President Bush's Grigori Potemkin or whether George Bush has created Potemkin villages all by himself. But the facades are cracking, and phony fronts of failed policies are quickly crumbling.

Six thousand unarmed National Guardsmen working as adjunct rear support to our undermanned, under-equipped Border Patrol is not border security. Three million illegal aliens continue to cross our borders and depress wages by hundreds of billions of dollars every year. The millions of manufacturing and middle-class jobs lost over the last five years have been replaced by lower-wage employment.

The president's faith-based commitment to so-called free trade will likely lead to a $1 trillion U.S. current account deficit this year and a trade debt of $4.5 trillion after 30 years of trade deficits. And while the president and Congress point to No Child Left Behind as a solution to our educational crisis, we're failing an entire generation of Americans whose test scores continue to fall and whose high school dropout rates would be embarrassing to a third-world country.

And a third-world country is what we will be if our elected officials don't soon come to their senses.