Thursday, March 13, 2008

March 1-12, 2008

Hillary W. Clinton
John W. McCain

Two of the pillars of our American democracy stand upon are the premise that ordinary folk -- in their role on juries and as voters -- are inherently imbued with a kind of celestial judgement claimed by only one other human on earth, the Pope. As the myth goes, once they hear all the evidence and arguments, juries and voters make the right judgement.

Well, I have at least two contempory examples why that's untrue: O.J. Simpson, and two George W. Bush terms in office. There are others -- lots of them -- but, nuf said. Sometimes we get it right, sometimes we get it wrong. Regardless the decisions stand and the consequences pile up, be they good or ill.

My apologies for just blurting out this revelation, as it will certainly come as news to most middle school civics classes. Sorry boys and girls, but ordinary Americans can be just as stupid when assembled into groups as they can be when left to their own devices-- often even more so. And sprinkling them with feel-good "justice-is-blind" and "the-people's-choice" fairy dust can't turn their occassional pig's-ear decisions into silk purses.

I only mention this because we are again in the midst of one of these exercises in mass decision making. Don't get me wrong, I prefer democracy over any other form of governance I've studied. My only point is that it's far from infallible -- which I admit, is the biggest "duh" you'll hear today.

Already this process is showing signs of trouble. Our herd of Democratic voters appears to have, again, grazed it's way into a patch of locoweed. Yes, I'm bellyaching about Hillary's alleged "come back," Tuesday night. And about all the nonsense those victories unleashed. And because, against all odds, there's a growing possiblity it can result in sending another Republican to the White House in November. .

Here's why I think the Democratic Party's herd of voters may not be leading us to the White House, but a cliff -- again. Here are my five reasons for believing so:

1) A good place to begin is to examine just who may have engineered Hillary's "comeback" in Texas and Ohio. Ask yourself why you think America's preeminent right-winger would want to help Hillary and hurt Obama.

Rush Limbaugh takes credit for Hillary's support

March 5, 2008 - Chicago Tribune: Conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh claimed at least partial credit today for Hillary Clinton's victories in Texas and Ohio.

Limbaugh spent much of his show Monday exhorting Republican listeners to cross over and vote in the Democratic primary for Hillary Clinton to prevent Democrats from unifying around Barack Obama as Republicans have done around John McCain....“What we did, if we did anything, is to create a bunch of chaos in the Democrat Party and it worked,” Limbaugh said.

The latest numbers show Clinton won by about 3 percentage points in Texas and 10 points in Ohio. Exit polls of voters in the two states found most Republicans who crossed over and voted in the Democratic primary voted for Obama. (Full Story)

When Rush Limbaugh is your biggest booster, you gotta wonder.

2) After Hillary's twin victories Tuesday night she floated the possibility of a Hillary/Obama ticket. Of course she'd love that, since it would bring in the young and well-educated voters now supporting Obama.

(Polls show that Hillary's support comes largely from the less educated, blue-collar Democratic party demographic. Not that's there's anything wrong with that.. but it should raise at least some question in the minds of voters. Call me an eliltist but, who would you chose to make a life and death decision for you -- well-educated people or not-so well educated people. But I digress)

The idea that Obama would serve as Hillary's Veep is beyond ridiculous. In fact, I can't think of any serious person who would want the VP post under Hillary. Why? Because they would not BE the Vice President in-fact -- Bill Clinton would be the de-facto VP, huddling nightly in the WH family quarters with the President.

A Vice President Barack Obama would be rendered ridiculous, a figure of ridicule and jokes. I just don't see him, or any other serious person, putting themselves in such an untenable, career killing, humiliating situation. Period. Think about it.

3) A race between Barack Obama and John McCain would be a contest between the politics and policies of the future v, the politics and policies of the past. If you like the war in Iraq, great, McCain will give you more of the same. If you liked tax cuts for the rich, he'll give us more of that too. If you liked seeing wages fall, John W. McCain will accomodate.

If you want something completely different, vote for Obama.

But what if Hillary is the nominee instead? A race between Hillary Clinton and John McCain would be far less of a choice. Sure there would be policy differences, but trying to change policy with the politics of the past will yield more of the same in Congress -- more rancor, game playing, passive-aggressive behavior on steroids -- just same old, same old.

Hillary takes pride in describing herself as "a fighter," and I'll give her that. But fighting is what we've had in Washington since Newt Gingrich took over as House Minority Whip from Dick Cheney in 1989. Fighting works for Republicans. Republicans like nothing better than to throw some red meat on the floor and create a brawl over it creating a wedge issue they can use agianst Democrats in the next election. It's a classic fascist political tactic -- and it works.

All of which says to me that the last freaking thing we need now is another "fighter" in the damn White House. We need a calm communicator who is not easily lured into a a fight with every knuckle-dragging conservative bully who taunts them.

4) Then there's the two spouses. With Barack we get Michelle, an articulate, successful career woman and mother of two little girls who is, by all accounts, an entirely normal, well-adjusted woman.

With Hillary we get Bill, an articulate politician, husband and father who had an affair with a girl roughly the same age as his own daughter - which, while not unheard -- is not "entirely normal" behavior -- especially for a sitting President of the United States of America.

Hillary makes the argument that voters need to choose between her and Barack based on experience and judgement. What kind of "judgement" was afoot in the Oval Office when spouse Bill was having sex in there. What if the White House phone rang back then?

"Hello, this is President Bill Clinton. I can't come to the phone right now because. .. well, I just can't. Leave a message at the tone. Beeeep."

Do Hillary Clinton's supporters really think Bill will exercise better judgement today? If so they must also believe that Britney Spears would make a great ambassador to the Vatican. Come on, Bill is Bill. We love him and we hate him for it... all at the same time. That leopard still has spots.

So, think about it: First Lady Michelle Obama or First Man, William Jefferson Clinton. Your choice.

5) Early in the campaign Hillary Clinton slapped Barack Obama around for his ties to crooked Chicago businessman, Tony Rezko. It should have been a "rocks and glass houses" moment, but the media didn't pick up on it.

Let me just note here that I am not naive about this kind of stuff. Money is not the "mother's milk of politics," it's the heroin of politics and, if a politician does not arrive in office already hooked on the stuff they will be soon enough. That's why we need mass house-cleanings from time to time. Or, as they put it down in Louisiana, "time to let the fat hogs out and the lean hogs in."

But again, I digress.

Hillary has refused to release her tax returns, saying she'd do so if and when she becomes the party nominee. The reason for the foot-dragging is simple. As noted above the core of Hillary's support comes from working class Democrats, many of whom are now struggling financially. According to reliable sources, since Bill and Hillary left the White House the couple has done quite well. Estimates of the current net worth range somewhere between $32 and $60 million.

The last thing Hillary wants her blue collar supporters to know is that she's a blue nose now and no longer "one of them."

But even more to the point, she does not want anyone asking how they bagged such a bonanza in such a short time. Sure she and he wrote a successful books .. a New York Times Best Sellers even. Well, so did I, and I can tell ya, I ain't worth $40 million...or anything remotely close to it. So where did all that mulla come from?


Protecting Hillary:
Bill Clinton Severs Business Ties With Billionaire Buddy

Bill Clinton has severed business ties with Los Angeles billionaire Ron Burkle, fearful that their deals could erupt into bad publicity damaging his wife's presidential bid, according to sources who know both men...The break-up is a major development in the world of political fundraising, where Burkle has risen to the top ranks, credited with channeling $50 million or more into Democratic coffers over the past 15 years....Burkle was one of Clinton's chief fundraisers while he was in the White House, a position that earned him a place on the Lincoln Bedroom guest list. After Clinton left the White House, Burkle brought the former president on board as a senior adviser at his investment firm, The Yucaipa Companies. (Full Story)

And another..oops:

How Bill Clinton's Aide
 Facilitated a Messy Deal
Lawsuit Pending Over Spending

Wall Street Journal: For the past six years, the road to Bill Clinton has often run through Douglas Band, a 34-year-old former White House intern who has helped manage Mr. Clinton's time, accompanied him around the world and even fielded some of his calls. ... When Mr. Clinton left office in 2001, Mr. Band stayed with him. Without his young aide, Mr. Clinton said in a 2003 speech, "I could not get through the day." Adds one longtime Clinton associate: "When Doug calls up, it's like having the president call up. (Full Story)


Bill Clinton's Midas touch
Stock deal benefiting his foundation among shrouded successes

WASHINGTON -- In December 2004, former President Bill Clinton made a much-publicized appearance at a launch party in New York for Accoona, a new Internet search engine billing itself as a rival to Google...Clinton's presence at the gathering at Tavern on the Green in Central Park was a coup for the unheralded, privately held Accoona, which paid for the former president's appearance by issuing options for 200,000 shares of stock to Clinton's charity, the William J. Clinton Foundation. In 2006, the Clinton Foundation sold the shares for $700,000. (Full Story)


Bill Clinton May Get Payout of $20 Million

Wall Street Journal: Former President Clinton stands to reap around $20 million — and will sever a politically sensitive partnership tie to Dubai — by ending his high-profile business relationship with the investment firm of billionaire friend Ron Burkle. (Full Story)

Isn't that what they call a "golden parachute" in the biz, Bill? I've been asked to "go away" more than once in my life and not once did anyone hand me 20 million bucks for my inconvenience. Just how does a fella get a gig like that? Inquiring minds will want to know... or should.

None of the above is anything like the bogus, chump change Whitewater real estate deal that bedeviled Bill's two terms in office. That deal amounted to something around $26,000, if I recall correctly. The deals Bill signed onto after leaving office have been real gushers, filled with real characters and more than a few questions about precisely what was afoot and what Bill was getting paid for doing.

I'm not just blowing past Obama's involvement with the sleazy Mr. Rezko. But Obama himself has described his decision to do business with the guy as "a bonehead decision." and donated contributions from Rezko to charity.

So, how does Bill describe the business deals noted about which netted him tens of millions?. Someone should ask. In the meantime voters should keep this in mind the next time the Clinton campaign drags Mr. Rezko out for another airing.

Okay, enough. If Democrats -- or the DNC -- decide to send Hillary into battle against McCain we will have four more years of Republican rule. Obama beats McCain in national polls. Hillary loses to McCain in those same polls. I have no idea why Hillary Clinton's supporters can't or won't see that they are about to do to nation in 2008, what Ralph Nader's supporters did to us in 2000. I can only hope they'll figure it out before it's too late.

Must Read of the Day:
Rosa Brooks, LA Times

Memo to Federal Employees
When Is It Ethical to Break the Law?

When is it ethical to fight illegality with illegality? Tough question. Dangerous question.

Nevertheless history is full of now celebrated events that, when boiled down to there essence, amounted to illegal acts that changed nations, changed the world. Revolutions are, for example, the mother of all illegal acts against a state. Yet they are more often than not, celebrated -- at least by the victors.

This is dangerous territory, to be sure. Breaking the law to achieve higher ends can be a calculation of monumental subjectivity. Nearly every tyrant in history has had their own list of justifications and claimed lofty goals to justify their lawless actions -- including the current occupant of the White House.

But history also tells many a tale of oppressed, abused and exploited populations, forced by the illegal actions of their rulers, to break the law in order to break free themselves of lawless rulers.

Sadly, we live in such times, and in such a country. Over the past seven years the Bush administration and it's Neo-con supporters have broken nearly every law of State that matters. They have waged an illegal war, kidnapped people, held people without trial and without representation. They have usurped the constitution's central tenants mandating the separation of powers. They have lied to Congress, lied to the courts, lied to their own people and lied to the world community.

Oh hell, you know the list. There's more. Lots more. Likely more than we now know.

And, at least so far, they've gotten away with it. How? Simple as pie. All they've had to do is withhold or destroy the documentary evidence of their crimes.

When the GOP controlled Congress the administration had hundreds of accomplices in this crime. When Democrats regained control of Congress the administration was on its own and resorted to lying under oath, hiding documents and, when that failed, destroyed them.. as they did with the over 5-million White House emails.

When we found out they were spying on us, with the help of the nations phone companies, they demanded Congress give the telecoms immunity from prosecution. Not because the give damn about the telecom's getting sued, but because they know the telecoms, to save their asses, will spill the beans -- the administration's beans. So the administration has dug its heels in, demanding Congress immunize the telecoms -- not to keep them on their side, but to keep them quite.

(Out here in the real world that's called "obstruction of justice and witness tampering." )

Okay, but you know all this already. So what am I getting to.

Recently many of us learned about a web site with only one purpose in life: allowing whistleblowers to post documentation that the government and/or corporations don't want us to see -- ever. Those that objected tried to get it shut down and, for a couple of weeks nearly succeeded.

Wikileaks judge realizes you can’t enjoin the net
by Richard Koman March 3, 2008 @ 7:00 PM

So, the site is back online, after Federal Judge Jeffrey White dissolved his previous order, ordering the site’s U.S. registrar to pull it off the net. In reversing those orders, the judge focused on the First Amendment implications of taking the site down. But even more to the point, the judge noted with regret that his injunctions were just plain useless. (Full Story)

WikiLeaks is back and what I am about to suggest I do not suggest lightly. I am about to suggest that people break the law .. which is itself.. is breaking the law. (One of society's little Catch-22's)

Since the Bush administration is now running out the clock on its two-terms of unpunished lawlessness, time is short. I know from my years of covering Washington that that town is chuck full of good people, employees working at the agency level. They are career government employees -- Republicans, Democrats and independents. And they've had a front row seat to what's come down during the past seven years. And I am certain that many of them -- maybe most of them -- are as disgusted and outraged as you are.

(An aside: The Bush administration has used leaks to accomplish its own goals. For example, they thought leaking the identity Ambassdor Joe Wilson's CIA wife, Valerie Plame, was just the right way bolster their case for war against Iraq. So, in a strange, perverted way, the administration has shown the way for others in government who have stuff they believe could be "helpful" if released, legally or otherwise.)

Those career employees represent possibly our final hope of catching these guys red-handed. Because it is in their offices, in their files where the evidence lays .. the documents, them minutes of meetings, the executive orders, all the stuff this administration is determined never sees the light of day -- or a court of law.

Let me be perfectly clear. I'm not talking about releasing truly sensitive classified intelligence. I'm talking about the kind of documents which, under any other administration would have been fully accessible to the Congress and the public through the Freedom of Information Act. I am talking about the regular business of government, the work-a-day documents of agencies like the FDA, FEMA, Treasury, HHS, the FDA and the DOJ. It is those documents which are being withheld because they prove this administration politicized those agencies violating laws in more ways than we can now even imagine.

I am quite certain that in some file in some employee's Executive Office Building cubicle is the list of just who was on Dick Cheney's Energy Task Force. In another office are the Executive Orders President Bush signed authorizing torture. In another office are documents showing how the religious right perverted federally-funded family planning operations. Some DOJ secretary is sitting on the evidence that would prove the White House tried to use the Dept. of Justice to suppress minority voting during the past two election cycles and tried to purge US Attorney's around the country that refuse to bring politically motivated charges against Democratic candidates and office holders.

All that evidence, and mountains more, are destined for oblivion within the next nine months.

Until now federal employees in possession of evidence of a crime had no reasonably safe way of getting that evidence into the public's hands.

WikiLeaks now offers a way -- and in just the nick of time.

Of course breaking the law -- even for laudable reasons -- is inherently risky business and I can't in good conscience encourage anyone to disregard the consequences by advising them to simply break the law. M means and ends must be thought through. The ethics of withholding or releasing such materials weighed and re-weighed and the possible consequences clearly understood.

Daniel Ellsberg understood the means, the justification, the ends he wished to achieve and accepted the risks. He broke the law and so doing, changed history.

(Another Aside: When I was covering banking agencies in Washington during the S&L crisis, federal regulators, unable to get their superiors to act against politically-connected rogues like Charles Keating, would slip me restricted documents. I would write a story and suddenly the agency heads would be forced to act. Finally one day two Treasury agents (with guns even) showed up at my office. They demanded to know who was leaking documents to me. I pointed to my filing cabinet and said,

"Listen you two, it's all in those files -- everything you want to know. I dare you to subpoena's those files. Then you two better go looking for a new line of work. Beecause some of the names in those files are your own superiors."

They left and I never heard a word about it after that. Had it not been for those leaks, to me and other reporters, the looting of the S&Ls would have gone on much longer, and cost taxpayers much more. Those leakers were -- are -- heroes, of a sort.)

So, if you're one of those government workers, and you're in the mood to blow the whistle on a crime, the URL is

Time is short. The perps are already moving in the shredding machines. They are already making lists of the documents that will be sequestered in the yet-to-be-built Bush "Library" in Texas. By this November it will be too late. They will have succeeded. They will have escaped. The evidence of their crimes will be either destroyed or placed beyond reach.

The best disinfectant is, and always has been, the light of day.

Liberals Can Be Wrong Too

Hopefully we're in the closing days of a over a decade of conservative dominance in national politics. It's not coming to an end because they were wrong all the time, but rather that, when they were wrong -- which was often -- they wouldn't or couldn't see it, admit it, and correct course.

In the process they took the nation, and large parts of the world, on regular Mr. Froggy's Wild Ride. Road kill litters their journey's path and they're returning a vehicle on it's last legs with an empty gas tank.

Sadly most of those mistakes could have been avoided had they only put ideology aside long enough each time to assess the wisdom -- or lack thereof -- before forging blindly ahead. After all, there was no shortage of sane conservative Republicans who tried to get Bush/Cheney and their band of pale-conservative Moonies to do just that.

Sen. John McCain warned that Bush's tax cuts for the rich would not stimulate the economy and would widen budget deficits. And so its come to pass.

Senior Republican, Sen. Chuck Hagel saw the folly of Bush's Iraq invasion early and tried to warn Bush that "staying the course" was a political, not tactical decision... that in fact it was a monumental mistake.

And so the list goes on and on.... "Don't do it!" Don't do, Gitmo, waterboarding, renditions, deregulating financial services, making the tax cuts for the rich permanent.... they were warned, and warned and the warnings continue. Hardcore conservatives simply jammed their ideological earplugs in so deep they mingled freely with gray matter.

Liberals have exactly the same tendency. Just as the conservatives have now worn out their welcome with American voters, liberals wore their out as well the last time they had the chance. And don't tell me it ain't so. How do you think we ended up Newt Gingrich and his "Contract For America," and all that has since flowed from it, including two GW Bush terms.

Americans had clearly become disenchanted -- even disgusted -- with ideologically crippled Democrats who couldn't seem to differentiate between good, workable policies and feel-good liberal wet dreams.

Let's admit it, Democrats really were a pack of "tax and spend liberals." When they had the chance they used -- abused -- the national treasury to pay off constituent groups with social programs -- some good, some bad, some just a mystery. Then, good or bad, they paid for those programs by taxing anything that moved, or didn't move fast enough. And no one could, at the time, convince them they might be wrong on any of it.

Let's also admit that today's Republicans have proven to be "borrow and spend neo-conservatives." They looted the national treasury, passing money out to their friends and supporters and then made up the deficit those give-aways caused by flipping out the national credit card. Each time they wanted to spend money on something -- like a $12 billion-a-month war in Iraq -- they said, "just charge it."

The reason I bring this up right now is that it seems nearly certain that, come January 21, 2009, the Democrats will once again be King of Mountain in DC. Will they listen this time to those who try to warn them to be alert to the fact that ideologically-driven policies -- even liberal ones -- come in two flavors: smart policies and stupid policies?

Like what kinds of issues, you ask. Here's a couple of quick examples, each of which will, I'm certain, garner me no end of misery from some of my liberal friends. But then, that's the very point, isn't it?

Missile Defense (AKA "Star Wars" & "SDI"): Republicans like it. Democrats see it as a giant boondoggle. Who's right?

When Ronald Reagan proposed missile defense ridiculing the idea became liberal orthodoxy. Any Democrat who wondered out loud if it might not be something worth looking at, was quickly and brutally silenced. Missile defense became -- and to large extent remains -- a no-think zone for Democrats.

At the time Ronald Reagan proposed SDI it was technologically pie-in-the-sky. Hell we're talking the early 1980s when state of the art computer technology had 32K of memory on board and ran at a snail's pace of around 12 mhz. There was no way a missile could intercept another missile. So skeptics back then had a point.

But we live in different times. The technology is better, a lot better. Today a missile can, and has, hit another missile in flight. It's not perfect, and may never be perfect. But it's getting better each time they try.

And we really do have enemies -- be they of our own making or not -- they exist and likely always will exist for as long as nations compete for attention, resources and influence. Some countries that don't like us already possess missiles that can hit US territory, or soon will. And some have, or soon will have, nukes to put on those missiles. And let us not forget that, while the Soviet Union no longer exists, Russia is on the comeback trail -- big time. Russia wants a return to the bi-polar balance of power that made up the Cold War years, and thanks to soaring oil prices, now has the dough to put where it's mouth is.

Not having a tested and fully functional missile defense system when that day arrives could make all the difference by reducing our options to a literal game of "Bet Your Life," and the return of the kiss-your-ass-goodbye, "duck and cover" drills in our public schools.

It comes down to this: Will the US be in a position to take a wait-and-see attitude to nuclear saber rattling from hostile nations, or not? Conservatives will argue we need to atack now, lacking a missile defense system. And, if tensions reach that point you can bet your bottom radioactive dollar that Democrats in Congress will go along -- again. (Except of course Hillary will claim her vote in favor of preemptive attacks was a cry for additional negotiations.)

Because, when it comes to nuclear threats for which we have no defense "wait and see" is not a politically-survivable option. Lacking a missile defense system sets us up for more Iraq's. Who knows how many more, as a vulnerable US becomes increasingly trigger happy and increasingly unpopular because of it.

That's a vicious cycle which a fully tested and deployed missile defense system would make a lot less likely.

Missile defense is, of course, just one issue among a long list of hardcore liberal issues.

Immigration is another. I am sorry that the current immigration issue centers on Mexican immigration. I wish the majority of illegal immigrants flooding into the US were from Canada. Maybe then Democrats could be able to discuss this issue without one eye (or both) on a juicy and growing racial demographic.

Because the real issue at the core of the immigration debate should not be about what race is gaining in the US electoral lottery. Instead Democrats should evaluate clearly needed changes in our immigration laws based on those core issues -- jobs and security.

If liberals take over in January and proceed to mealy-mouth immigration, voters will notice, especially as joblessness explodes on this side of the boarder.

Immigration offers Republicans and Democrats the perfect issue on which to meet in the middle. Republicans would agree to strong, enforceable civil and criminal sanctions against employers that knowingly hire illegals (known to liberals by the painfully politically correct but factually-challenged term "undocumented aliens.")

In return Democrats agree to funding and implementing border enforcement. No, not a wall, but more border agents and technology that works -- for a change.

Because borders either matter or don't matter. Most Americans believe borders should matter and woe be to the party that jerks us around on this issue from here on. Go ahead, call me xenophobic, but until Mexico, Canada and the US decide to merge into Canamericico, I and most other voters expect the borders to matter and for our government to act like they matter.

Missile defense and immigration are are just a two examples of the kind of ideological sand traps liberals will face if they regain the power. Those liberal knees are going to have to stop jerking, at least long enough for brains to take stock. Not every GOP idea is a bad idea, and visa versa. It's just fine for Republicans and Democrats to fight over issues. But the "shoot-first-ask-questions-later" philosophy that's pervaded national politics of late, must stop, at least long enough for everyone involved to listen -- really listen.

Otherwise we will forever see-saw between know-it-all conservatives and know-it-all liberals, each screwing things up in their own favorite ways until voters throw them out and try the other guys again.

One last thing. Please don't email me about how some third party will eventually ride in and save us from this dismal cycle. Forget about it. Your undertaker will remove that pacifier from your clinched jaws before closing the lid. Then he'll head out to cast a vote for party that's been out of power hoping against all experience that this time they will have learned their lesson.

So, have Democrats learned that lesson? We'll see. I hope so because Gingrich, Delay, Bush, Cheney and their progeny will spend the next four years in the political wilderness sharpening their knives for their next come back. And if that come back happens it will be the fault of the new crop of Democrats we send to Washington next November.

Truth - out.

It Really IS The Economy, Stupid

As I rummaged through my morning paper I eventually reached the business ection. I say "eventually reached" because I have yet to see a daily paper that does not bury the business section. The sports section is usually right there near the top, even though sports news has absolutely no impact on our lives, beyond possibly under-pinning beer and nacho sales.

But I digress.

Once I unearthed the business section I was struck by the single theme of each headlined story:

(Well, thank you, Ben. Where would we be without your timely reports on the already painfully obvious.)

There was not a stitch of good economic news in this morning's business section to be found.

While my heart tells me this election should be about the war in Iraq and the mindset that got us into it, my head tells me that the subject better quickly become the US economy. If it does the war will end anyway. Let me explain.

First, recognition that the economy is not just heading into a one of its normal cyclical downturns. This time is different. And no candidate for the Presidency is worthy of your vote unless he can explain in the clearest and starkest terms how and why it's different this time.

Eight years of spend-borrow, spend-borrow, spend-borrow by, not just government, but by business and consumers alike, has done to our financial infrastructure just what termites do to a home when left to their own devices. The underpinnings of this economy have been hollowed out by abuse of credit, the perversion of financial instruments and a reckless disregard for consequences of all the above.

Which is why when Fed Chief, Ben Bernanke, finally broke the glass on the red EMERGENCY box in his office he found it empty. Inflation is raging like a peat fire, just below the surface. The ground under his very feet is getting too hot to bear. But he can't put the inflationary fires out with the usual Fed extinguisher, higher interest rates. Because. even as inflation consumes the value of the US dollar, business indicators are weak and getting weaker.

To boost a weak economy the Fed's tool of choice is lower interest rates. Bernanke has already cut the Fed Rate down to 3% and it's done no good. That leaves him a paltry 3 percentage-point bullets left in his gun before he hits the penultimate shot -- 0%. After that he'll have to pay people to borrow money.

I warned a full two years ago that we were heading straight into stagnation -- the worst of inflation joined at the hip with the worst of a weak economy. Prices go up and up. Wages stagnate or even drop -- a vicious cycle -- a self-replicating monster, once loose, takes on an voracious life of its own, consuming businesses, investments, jobs and lives.

The next President will, on inauguration day, be handed the worst domestic economy since Franklin Roosevelt took office in January 1933. As then the next President will have to deal with a banking industry in full meltdown, a tanking stock market, rising unemployment and the maelstrom of social welfare burdens that inevitably materialize out of such a crisis. A tired nation will turn to Washington for help -- citizens will turn to the next President for help.

Which brings me back to the war in Iraq. Recognition by the Presidential candidates of the true state of the economy would require they end this disasterous war of choice, and to do so as quickly as humanly and tactically possible.

Because there is simply no way we could afford to continue wasting nearly $12 billion a month -- every red dime of which is borrowed money -- to do for Iraqis what we can nolonger afford to do for American taxpayers themselves. (More facts on the cost of the war here.)

Things like:

- Repairing Iraqi infrastructure while America's infrastructure crumbles.

- Building and funding schools for Iraqi children while states cut education spending here at home.

- Training doctors and building hospitals and clinics for Iraqs 27 million citizens while twice that many American's go without health coverage.

The candidate for President who does not make that argument -- and make it the central pillar of their campaign -- deserves to lose this election. Even paleo-conservatives understand that charity begins at home. That you don't starve your own family to fund someone else's family and somehow argue that you are protecting your own family in the process.

That's just nuts.

It's long past time to start talking turkey on the campaign trail about both the economy and the war and how they are really the same subject. They are Siamese twins, joined at the national wallet. If either is to be save, they must be quickly separated.

If Iraq survives the operation it will be because the Iraqis nursed their nation back to normalcy -- or at least what normalcy goes for in that part of the world.

Our concern must be to see that the US survives. That our own people have jobs, good schools, good teachers, affordable healthcare and the restored and modernized infrastructure that will be required if US is to productive and competitive in the decades ahead.

A candidate who refuses to take that stand, aggressively and honestly, will reign over the mother of all economic and social meltdowns. And will share future encyclopedia entries alongside the likes of Herbert Hoover.

"The public, fortunately, doesn't understand how bad the situation is. If it did, we might have a real panic on our hands."

-- David Ignatius, Washington Post