28 February 2005

What would happen if we doubled the minimum wage?

If a $500 tax rebate stimulates the economy, imagine what an extra $700 per month plus health benefits plus paid vacation for millions of employees would do for the economy, and for the spirit of our nation.
So in our hypothetical company, we have 100 executives making $400 million per year. We have 20,000 employees making about $200 million per year. If we simply cut the average executive pay from $4 million per year to $2 million per year, we can double the pay of rank and file employees in this company.

Could the executives manage to survive on $2 million rather than $4 million? Yes, they could. They could also survive on $1 million a year, or $500,000. Their pay is completely arbitrary. It has risen by a factor on 10 in the last 20 years -- In 1980, these same executives would have been making $400,000 instead of $4 million.

A common complaint about doubling the minimum wage is that it is "inflationary." The point of this example is to show that employee wages can be doubled without raising prices at all. Executives are now redistributing wealth from employees to themselves at such a remarkable rate that employee wages have fallen considerably. Simply by reversing this concentration of wealth, employee wages can rise to reasonable levels without changing consumer prices.

Of course, there are those who argue that the poorest of the working poor should continue to wallow in poverty despite the fact that the current minimum wage is at its lowest level since 1949 and empirical evidence illustrates that raising it would not cause job loss.

24 February 2005

How about a new idea to offer financial security for each American when he or she reaches retirement age?

Here's a social security reform plan I could rally behind, and it's proposed by former Bush administration Treasury secretary Paul H. O'Neill.
If we decided as a society that we were going to put $2,000 a year into a savings account from the day each child was born until he or she reaches age 18 — and if we assume a 6% annual interest rate — each child would have $65,520 at age 18. (The worst return for a 25-year investor in the stock market from 1929 before the crash to 2004 was an average of 6% a year.) With no further contributions, again with a 6% interest rate, those savings would grow to $1,013,326 at age 65.

If we began to do this now, the first-year cost would be $8 billion; that is $2,000 times the roughly 4 million children born each year. The second year would cost $16 billion and so on until we were contributing $2,000 per year to a savings account for every child from birth until age 18. When fully implemented, the cost would be $144 billion per year. To put this $144 billion per year into context, this year's combined spending for Social Security and Medicare will exceed $750 billion.

What this plan would do is "pre-fund" for the needs of old age. It solves the long-term financing problem for both Social Security and Medicare, allowing for the gradual replacement of programs like Supplemental Security Income and Medicaid and food stamps and housing aid for those over age 65. To make this work, the savings account money would need to be invested — my suggestion would be through so-called index funds. The administrative costs would be practically nothing because there's no need for a huge separate tax collection bureaucracy; the money would come from the general revenues of the U.S. government.

This proposal is far superior to the boondoggle scheme being flaunted by the Bush administration. It's simple, straightforward, less costly, and unencumbered by the additional bureaucratic entanglements that the Bush scheme is fraught with. Basically, Bush's privatization program adds layers of new bureaucracy and funnels money from working Americans into fat cat brokers and investment firms.

23 February 2005

Lying won’t get our troops out of Iraq without our national security taking a long-term hit

America's most decorated military veteran alive today equates our Iraq campaign to Vietnam, and asks for the Bush administration to come clean, unlike the Nixon gang did during the Vietnam quagmire.
This is why most combat vets pick their fights carefully. They look at their scars, remember the madness and are always mindful of the fallout.

That’s not the case in Washington, where the White House and the Pentagon are run by civilians who have never sweated it out on a battlefield. Never before in our country’s history has an administration charged with defending our nation been so lacking in hands-on combat experience and therefore so ignorant about the art and science of war.

Now the increasingly flummoxed Bush team is stealing the page on Vietnamization from Nixon’s Exit Primer, coupled with the same deceitful tactics he used to get us out of the almost decade-long Vietnam quagmire: telling lies.

The Bush administration has been about nothing but a big series of lies.

21 February 2005

American enrollments in science and engineering programs have risen and fallen in almost exact correlation with the job market in those fields

Contrary to what the high-tech industry claims, in their push to import more foreign workers.

Why isn't Bush looking for a way out of the greatest strategic blunder in American history?

Because, as Paul Craig Roberts writes, the neconservatives' goal is the same as Osama bin Laden's — to foment instability to justify more U.S. invasions.
President Bush's invasion has turned Iraq into a recruiting and training ground for anti-U.S. terrorists, according to CIA Director Porter Goss in testimony before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on Feb. 16. Goss' report was supported by Vice Admiral Lowell Jacoby, director of the the Defense Intelligence Agency. Jacoby told the committee that "our policies in the Middle East fuel Islamic resentment." The Iraq insurgency, Jacoby reported, has grown "in size and complexity over the past year" with daily attacks increasing 240 percent.

The situation, in other words, is out of control. One hundred fifty thousand American troops are tied down by a few thousand lightly armed insurgents. The recent Iraq election was won by Shi'ites allied with Iran. U.S. casualties continue to mount, and our troops can seldom tell friend from foe.

And they'll twist the truth, employing the enourmous propaganda resources eager to perform their bidding, to create a climate for expanding into more wars.

18 February 2005

Juiced is about a lot more than just steroids

A MSNBC Keith Olbermann review of baseball star Jose Canseco's tell-all book contains additional juicy tidbits besides his admission of his (and teammate) steroid consumption. Including some commentary on Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens bribing umpires, and an encouraging word for aspiring young baseball stars concerned about the effects of steriod usage on the reproductive organs.
(Page 218) The simple fact is that Barry Bonds was definitely using steroids.

And believe it or not, Juiced is about a lot more than just steroids. It's also about players bribing umpires (page 162): "Fans would be amazed just how far some players - especially pitchers, even the best of them - will go to try to stay on the good side of umpires. Roger Clemens… was always very conscientious about taking care of umpiring crews. One thing he would do was use his pull to get them on the best golf courses… Some players are constantly signing bats and balls for them, taking pictures with their kids - even sending them Christmas gifts, like sporting equipment ordered directly from whichever company they have an endorsement deal with."

And Jose closes with good news for you youngsters just starting out on steroids (page 98): “One definite side effect of steroid use is the atrophying of your testicles. I can confirm that. Whatever size they start out, they will definitely shrink if you are taking steroids over a period of time. But here's the point I want to emphasize: what happens to your testes has nothing to do with any shrinking of the penis. That's a misconception. As a matter of fact, the reverse can be true. Using growth hormone can make your penis bigger, and make you more easily aroused. So to the guys out there who are worried about their manhood, all I can say is: Growth hormone worked for me.”

17 February 2005

Since late 1995, housing prices have risen nationwide by almost 35% after adjusting for inflation

A steep run-up that is abnormal. In some regions, housing costs have risen by more than 50%. Could there be bubble trouble on the horizon?
The housing bubble most likely has its origins in another bubble—the stock bubble of the late 1990s, when investors used their Wall Street returns to buy pricier homes. The increased demand began to drive up prices; soon, homebuyers came to expect continued price increases and based their purchase decisions on that expectation. Homebuyers who may otherwise have viewed a $200,000 home as too costly became willing to pay that much in the expectation that the home would sell for far more down the road. Expectations of ever-rising prices drive speculative bubbles.

Sound familiar? Indeed, the current housing bubble is not unlike the run-up in stock prices to which it owes its origins. If and when this bubble bursts, as the stock bubble did, the economy will likely find itself in another recession, and millions of families will see their net worth disappear as their homes, particularly those in over-inflated housing markets, plummet in value. With nearly 40% of new homebuyers choosing adjustable-rate mortgages, and interest rates on the rise, some homebuyers could face increased mortgage payments even as the values of their homes fall. Those with high debt-to-equity balances could face negative equity, or the prospect of owing more than they own.

A weak job market and an otherwise stagnant economy has been kept buoyant by the housing bubble, which has not shown signs of receding, like has happened with the stock market, jobs and wage levels. In fact, home purchases have been a lucrative portfolio choice for many investors. But there are imminent warning signs like the record high mortgage debt to home equity ratio and continued rise in bankruptcies and foreclosures.

How do so many Americans wonder why more Iraqis each day are supporting both violent and non-violent movements of resistance to the occupation?

Because mainstream media reportage in the United States about the occupation in Iraq is being censured, distorted, threatened by the military and controlled by corporations that own the outlets.
Most Americans don't know that on any given day, an average of three U.S. soldiers die in Iraq as a result of 75 attacks every single day on U.S. forces or that Iraqi civilian deaths average 10 times that amount.

Most Americans also don't know there are four permanent U.S. military bases in Iraq, with the Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown and Root diligently constructing 10 others.

Most Americans don't know overall troop morale in Iraq resembles that of the Vietnam War, with tours being extended and stop-loss orders imposed.

Nor do most folks know where billions of their tax dollars have been spent that were supposed to be used in the reconstruction of Iraq.

In reality, Iraq has been flattened by the Bush administration's tank.

16 February 2005

They are outsourcing torture because they know it’s illegal

Our government, under a secretive program known as “extraordinary rendition”, that abducts and ships suspects off to foreign lands to be tortured.
The extraordinary-rendition program bears little relation to the system of due process afforded suspects in crimes in America. Terrorism suspects in Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East have often been abducted by hooded or masked American agents, then forced onto a Gulfstream V jet, like the one described by Arar. This jet, which has been registered to a series of dummy American corporations, such as Bayard Foreign Marketing, of Portland, Oregon, has clearance to land at U.S. military bases. Upon arriving in foreign countries, rendered suspects often vanish. Detainees are not provided with lawyers, and many families are not informed of their whereabouts.

The most common destinations for rendered suspects are Egypt, Morocco, Syria, and Jordan, all of which have been cited for human-rights violations by the State Department, and are known to torture suspects. To justify sending detainees to these countries, the Administration appears to be relying on a very fine reading of an imprecise clause in the United Nations Convention Against Torture (which the U.S. ratified in 1994), requiring “substantial grounds for believing” that a detainee will be tortured abroad. Martin Lederman, a lawyer who left the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel in 2002, after eight years, says, “The Convention only applies when you know a suspect is more likely than not to be tortured, but what if you kind of know? That’s not enough. So there are ways to get around it.”

So tell me again how our Republican leadership in the U.S. government doesn't enable torture like the barbarous regimes they support across the globe? Oh, we only do that to suspected terrorists. But who judges the judges and where are the checks and balances, as the founding fathers of this once great republic set forth?

15 February 2005

Those guys pretty much just made it up, so says FDR's grandson, James Roosevelt, himself the former associate commissioner for Social Security

Britt Hume and other Fox News blowhards take a bunch of 70-year-old quotes out of context to make it look like FDR would endorse President Bush's social security privatization scheme.
The Fox News folks, of course, specifically Brit Hume, squeezed the whole FDR thing. ‘Media Matters For America’ has done much of the legwork on breaking this down, and both on his radio show and at his website, Al Franken has done much of the publicizing. Hume, and others like those bastions of public conduct John Fund and Bill Bennett, have taken a bunch of 70-year old quotes out of context to make it look like Franklin Delano Roosevelt is endorsing President Bush’s plan to partially privatize Social Security.

Here’s the full relevant segment from Roosevelt’s message to Congress on Social Security and other similar programs from 1935: “In the important field of security for our old people, it seems necessary to adopt three principles: First, non-contributory old-age pensions for those who are now too old to build up their own insurance. It is, of course, clear that for perhaps thirty years to come funds will have to be provided by the States and the Federal Government to meet these pensions. Second, compulsory contributory annuities which in time will establish a self-supporting system for those now young and for future generations. Third, voluntary contributory annuities by which individual initiative can increase the annual amounts received in old age. It is proposed that the Federal Government assume one-half of the cost of the old-age pension plan, which ought ultimately to be supplanted by self-supporting annuity plans.”

The syntax is a little ancient but the message is pretty straightforward. For 1935, people who would only take money out of Social Security and not put any in, should have their contributions covered half by the federal government and half by the states. Later on, those contributions should be replaced by the “self-supporting annuity plans” — which Roosevelt has already defined (“Second…”) as the actual Social Security system. Buried in the formality of his third point, FDR is talking about things we would later know as IRA’s and Keoghs and 401k’s.

But look at how Hume mixed and matched the original Roosevelt quotes on February 4th (and we’re quoting this verbatim from Fox’s website) “…it turns out that FDR himself planned to include private investment accounts in the Social Security program when he proposed it. In a written statement to Congress in 1935, Roosevelt said that any Social Security plans should include, ‘Voluntary contributory annuities, by which individual initiative can increase the annual amounts received in old age,’ adding that government funding, ‘ought to ultimately be supplanted by self-supporting annuity plans.’”

Roosevelt said no such thing. The “voluntary contributory annuities” are the IRA’s and Keoghs and 401k’s. What “ought to ultimately be supplanted” was the special government contributions to Social Security on behalf of people born in the 1870’s and earlier, and the “self-supporting annuity plans” constitute Social Security itself.

It’s premeditated, historical fraud, but you will not see Hume nor Fox News backpedal from it (as Jordan did for his misdemeanor), nor apologize for it (as Jordan did), nor save their masters from its shame (as Jordan did — of course there is no shame at Fox).

The grandson of Franklin Delano Roosevelt appeared on the MSNBC Keith Olbermann show to say this implication is an attempt to deceive the American people and an outrage.

Britt Hume should resign, yet he's not backing away from the intellectual fraud he has committed.

Liberal media bias my arse.

Empire has been built through economic manipulation, cheating, fraud, seduction, through economic hit men

And now former Economic Hit Man John Perkins has had an epiphany and penned a new book titled Confessions of an Economic Hit Man. It's indeed a page turner, I could hardly set it down, as Perkins tells the story he served as a tool U.S. neo-imperialism and how the global game works. The author also makes some bold claims, including unproven charges that Ecuador president Jaime Roldos and Panama president Omar Torrijos were assassinated for standing up against the corporatocracy.
Yeah, it was a tongue-in-cheek term that we called ourselves. Officially, I was a chief economist. We called ourselves e.h.m.'s. It was tongue-in-cheek. It was like, nobody will believe us if we say this, you know? And, so, we went to Saudi Arabia in the early seventies. We knew Saudi Arabia was the key to dropping our dependency, or to controlling the situation. And we worked out this deal whereby the Royal House of Saud agreed to send most of their petro-dollars back to the United States and invest them in U.S. government securities. The Treasury Department would use the interest from these securities to hire U.S. companies to build Saudi Arabia–new cities, new infrastructure–which we’ve done. And the House of Saud would agree to maintain the price of oil within acceptable limits to us, which they’ve done all of these years, and we would agree to keep the House of Saud in power as long as they did this, which we’ve done, which is one of the reasons we went to war with Iraq in the first place. And in Iraq we tried to implement the same policy that was so successful in Saudi Arabia, but Saddam Hussein didn't buy. When the economic hit men fail in this scenario, the next step is what we call the jackals. Jackals are C.I.A.-sanctioned people that come in and try to foment a coup or revolution. If that doesn't work, they perform assassinations. or try to. In the case of Iraq, they weren't able to get through to Saddam Hussein. He had -- His bodyguards were too good. He had doubles. They couldn’t get through to him. So the third line of defense, if the economic hit men and the jackals fail, the next line of defense is our young men and women, who are sent in to die and kill, which is what we’ve obviously done in Iraq.

Basically, the con is to go into developing nations, overhype and inflate economic estimates and projections to justify massive loan expenditures made out to the the developing nation which in turn flow back to the corporatocracy. Loans which the dependent nation will be unable to pay back, and thus the global powers will now have their "hooks" into the country's leadership. Fat profits flow to firms like Chas T. Main, Bechtel, Halliburton, etc.…, the foreign land's ruling class become enriched in loot, but economic pain is inflicted upon the common folks, who ultimately end up paying for the party.

Perkins tale seems to be abridged for the general readership as he covers his induction into his "chief economist" role for Chas T. Main all the way into current events, which he writes, compelled him to finally publish the book that he'd tried to write years before, but was "bribed" to keep silent. Critics can rightfully shred a good deal of the printed material here, as most all of the book is anecdotal in nature, though bibliographic links are presented in support of transpired events. Again, it's not so much a detailed breakdown of chicanery, but Perkins own wrestling with what he was and what was done in the interests of an empire, not so altruistic and benevolent as Americans typically believe. Repeatedly, Perkins bangs the theme of life being a "series of coincidences" and how "the world is as you dream it", contrasting his "man in the middle" perspective with the natives in foreign lands and the American public, who are totally blind to these global affairs.

Additionally, it's been a few years since he was a primary player on the global economic stage, thus, a great deal of his inferences regarding current affairs seem to be based on kvetching with contacts he's kept from his days of past international intrigue. Latter chapters in the book give fuel to those who wish to dismiss his words as conspiracy chattel.

Still, I think a great deal of what Perkins writes has merit, and it is consistent with what other "globalization" insiders spilling the beans have detailed — including David Korten and Joseph Stiglitz. Total adherence to the altar of capitalism is not a panacea for the ills in the world, and it's had a destructive effect.

11 February 2005

The Jeff Gannon Controversy

A partisan hack, for a phony baloney news agency that published GOPUSA press releases as news, using a pseudonym, with no journalism background and training is granted White House credentials to shill for the Bush administration.

Media Matters asks some important questions about the Gannon relationship with the White House that have not been answered, including how did he manage to secure press credentials and how he got his hands on classified documents that revealed the identity of covert operatives.

An excellent summary of the Gannon/Guckert affair, with investigative details ferreted out not by the mainstream media, but by bloggers on the internet, can be found here.

Despite his lack of journalistic experience, Guckert used an assumed name and was granted access to the elite White House Press Corps.  His application for a press pass to the House and Senate galleries was rejected because Talon News shares ownership with and did not meet press pass standards.  Yet somehow he was still given a daily press pass to White House Briefings for almost two years.

In a press briefing on Feb. 10th, White House Press Secretary McClellan claimed that Guckert was granted White House access because he "showed that he was representing a news organization that published regularly." (emphasis added).

However, Talon News came into existence on March 29, 2003.  It was granted White House Press Corps access just four days (approx. 96 hours) later.  During that four-day time period, Talon News published a total of nine "stories."  

During briefings, Guckert's questions frequently revealed not only his conservative bias, but also a possible coordination with White House Press Secretary McClellan.  Guckert's questions were frequently leading, unabashedly partisan, and at times inflammatory.  Moreover, Guckert apparently had unprecedented access, and even claimed at one point to be "entertaining the Prime Minister of Great Britain."

Maybe the bigger question is how it was so easy for a Republican shill posing as a "journalist' under a false name could hide out for so long with "legitimate" White House press reporters.

And the right wing cries of how "liberal bloggers" dug into Mr. Gannon/Guckert's "personal life" are indeed laughable:

Bloggers who "uncovered" Mr. Guckert's true identity have been accused repeatedly of "digging into Gannon/Guckert's personal life." No one dug into his personal life. He made it available by posting it online... himself. This was all public record. Gannon/Guckert posted all of this on the World Wide Web. No "digging into his personal life" was required. He wasn't followed around and photographed. His phone wasn't tapped. No one went through his trash. Gannon/Guckert, himself, made all of this information public. Every last shred of it.

Granted, the "conclusions" reached by some -- that he operated a gay escort service -- have not been borne out by facts, but the photograph of him in his underwear and the website names registered to his address and his name are public record. No one "dug into his personal life," and buying into that line of reasoning means buying into the classic red herring, "Look-over-here!" line of defense. Which is to say, no defense at all.

The real isues remain: Gannon/Guckert's securing of a supposedly secret memo undercutting Wilson's claim that his wife had nothing to do with the Nigeria/yellowcake assignment; and a fake journalist with a fake name being cleared by White House security. Of course, much of the mainstream press seems to have bought into the misdirection play.

How many Bush Administration officials does it take to screw in a light bulb?


There is nothing wrong with the light bulb; its conditions are improving every day. Any reports of its lack of incandescence are a delusional spin from the liberal media. That light bulb has served honorably, and anything you say undermines the lighting effect. Why do you hate freedom?

10 February 2005

Banks technically aren't responsible for what happens on your PC

So when $90,000 gets lifted from your online banking account via a virus planted by a villainous hacker from a foreign land, your sole recourse is to sue the bank as Miami businessman Joe Lopez is now experiencing.
When he checked his account, Lopez found that $90,348.65 had been wired to Parex Bank in Riga, Latvia -- without his approval. "I thought I was going to throw up," he said.

According to the complaint filed on Thursday, about $20,000 of the money was withdrawn by the fraudulent recipient in Latvia. The rest, roughly $70,000, was frozen by Parex, where it remains.

The U.S. Secret Service, which investigates computer-based attacks on banks, sent Lopez a letter in November saying its "initial examination" had determined that a variant of a virus called coreflood had existed on his computer systems.

Bank of America spokeswoman Eloise Hale said Friday she was not aware of the complaint. But Hale reiterated comments she made for an article in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel in November that the bank's "internal review of the transaction and documentation confirm all appropriate steps took place."

It's being called a "landmark case" as the ruling may be one of a precedent setting nature. Who is to blame -- the person who doesn't secure their computer or the bank that issued general alerts and warnings about conducting online banking account activity in a secure fashion? We'll have to wait and see how this plays out in the courts.

In search of a typical, reasonable supporter of Mr. Bush

Stumbled across this and thought I'd reproduce and share these questions, as I answer them myself, and pose them for the conservative readership here (though anyone of any political persuasion can feel free to chime in with their own feedback).

1. What's the most important problem facing America?

Economic injustice, record incarceration rates, declining quality health care availability, threat of terrorism, uncontrolled immigration, globalization. Oh, sorry, I was only supposed to pick one.

2. The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution states (I abridge the text to concentrate attention on the relevant portions; be assured that I have not altered the meaning): "No person shall be... deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law..." Does not the detention of 'enemy combatants' at Guantanamo violate the Fifth Amendment? Does this not alarm you?

Yes, it is alarming.

3. Is "separation of church and state" an essential component of American government?

Yes, even as a Christian, I believe strongly in separation of church and state, and our founding fathers, despite the barrage of propaganda, also were adamant about keeping the state out of the religous domain and vice versa.

4. In his speech to the nation justifying the upcoming invasion of Iraq, President Bush offered two rationales: the "imminent danger" arising from Saddam's possession of WMD, and his ties to Al Qaeda. We now know that neither of these justifications was true. Mr. Bush erred; should not an error of such import and magnitude disqualified him for a second term in the eyes of any reasonable voter?


5. It has been established beyond all doubt that the Bush administration deliberately misled Congress as to the true cost of its health care bill, even to the point of suppressing correct information about the cost. If Mr. Clinton's lies about his sexual activities merited impeachment, should not have Mr. Bush's lies on this matter, involving billions of dollars, be even more deserving of impeachment?

Not certain that this could be categorized as a "lie", but it is true that the Bush administation has wrapped just about all of its initiatives in an Orwellian cloak.

6. Does Mr. Bush's obvious predilection for favoring the rich and powerful, both in terms of tax benefits and easing of legal constraints on corporations, bother you?

Yes, and it's been a sinister scam on a serious scale that has most of the public hoodwinked into thinking that these effects help, rather than hinder, John Q. Worker.

7. Do the 9/11 attacks justify a weakening of Constitutional protections for individuals?

Benjamin Franklin summarized it best: "They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty or security"

8. Mr. Bush has wiped out the largest budget surplus in history and replaced it with a gigantic deficit. Does this bother you? Is it serious or important?

Bush's neoconservative apologists will argue that deficit had to do less with Bush than with other macro economic factors (and of course, blame Clinton) and the "war on terror". And some of the same folks who clacked away about deficit spending now are downplaying any potential ill effects of massive deficit spending. Deficits are not evil up to a certain point -- credit is a powerful enabling mechanism that empowers entities to envision enourmous feats, but after a certain level of indebtedness, it becomes a significant material drain, and the costs will be borne by working folks.

9. Mr. Bush has alienated most of the world; the sympathy and good will generated by 9/11 has been replaced by distrust and ill will. Is this a significant mistake?

Here, I really don't care what the rest of the world thinks of the U.S..

10. Mr. Bush promised to be a "uniter, not a divider", yet under his administration America has become more polarized than at any time in our history. Does this bother you?

I can't lay this at the feet of Mr. Bush -- it's more due to the massive investment conservative think tanks and media empires have made in pounding their doctrine into the head of every American -- that any public subsidy is wrong, unless of course, it's a commercial/corporate recipient. Some embrace this, others vehemently reject it.

11. If you agree that many of the above points represent mistakes on Mr. Bush's part, what positive factors in Mr. Bush's policies outweigh these negative factors?

Outside of some minor deals and the initial decision to invade Afghanistan (which they subsequently mismanaged), I can't think of anything this adminstration has done that I am in agreement with. They value dollars over people, war over peace, the greedy over the needy, and wish for us to embrace a faith based paradigm instead of a reality based world. Cleverly, they wrap their missives in a benevolent Judeo-Christian fraudulent cover. Is Mr. Bush evil incarnated? No, I believe he believes he is doing right, but he's sold by his packagers as a white knight, when he's doing the bidding of nefarious forces. It can be argued that all politicians are predisposed to serve those holding the most loot, but this clan has taken that notion to new depths, on a institutional and technological level nprecedented.

8 February 2005

Goldberg v. Cole

University of Michigan history professor Juan Cole and conservative pundit Jonah Goldberg exchange some heated words on Iraq, with the good professor simply dusting the inept charlatan son of Lucianne.
But Goldberg is just a dime a dozen pundit. Cranky rich people hire sharp-tongued and relatively uninformed young people all the time and put them on the mass media to badmouth the poor, spread bigotry, exalt mindless militarism, promote anti-intellectualism, and ensure generally that rightwing views come to predominate even among people who are harmed by such policies. One of their jobs is to marginalize progressives by smearing them as unreliable.

The thing that really annoyed me about Goldberg's sniping was it reminded me of how our country got into this mess in Iraq. It was because a lot of ignorant but very powerful and visible people told the American people things that were not true. In some instances I believe that they lied. In other instances, they were simply too ignorant of the facts to know when an argument put forward about, say, Iraq, was ridiculous. For instance, it was constantly said that Iraqis were "secular." This allegation ignored four decades of radical Shiite organizing and revolutionary activity by the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, the al-Dawa Party, and others, as well as the influence on Iraqis of the Khomeini revolution and of the 1991 Saddam crackdown on Shiites. They were never contradicted when they said this on television, though.

And, of course, there was all that hype about Iraq being 2-4 years from having a nuclear weapon, which was either a Big Lie or a Dr. Strangelove fantasy. Khidir Hamza appears to have been paid by someone (and got big royalties from the American Enterprise Institute) to spin a web of complete lies about the Iraqi (non-existent by then) nuclear program. Goldberg in particular pushed that line, with his North Korea comparison, on a number of occasions. His current excuse is that other people were wrong, too. D'oh.

2 February 2005

The numbers the privatizers use just don't add up

Tonight, President Bush hawks his social security privatization scheme, and continues to make dubious claims about the system's future. Paul Krugman has penned an excellent column on how the Bush adminstration trots out one set of numbers to trumpet prospects for economic growth but extols the extremely pessimistic quotes to justify overhauling Social Security and implementing a mass transfer of finances from working folks to brokers and bankers.
Which brings us to the privatizers' Catch-22.

They can rescue their happy vision for stock returns by claiming that the Social Security actuaries are vastly underestimating future economic growth. But in that case, we don't need to worry about Social Security's future: if the economy grows fast enough to generate a rate of return that makes privatization work, it will also yield a bonanza of payroll tax revenue that will keep the current system sound for generations to come.

Alternatively, privatizers can unhappily admit that future stock returns will be much lower than they have been claiming. But without those high returns, the arithmetic of their schemes collapses.

It really is that stark: any growth projection that would permit the stock returns the privatizers need to make their schemes work would put Social Security solidly in the black.

Read that last paragraph again. And ask yourself how stocks can grow by 7% per year, after inflation, while at the same time, the economy only grows at 1.9%, as the projections that the trust fund will be exhausted by 2042 say.

And did I mention that the Bush administration's Social Security plan would entail several trillion dollars in borrowing

It's phenomenal, it's a brand new form of capitalism

Bill Gates heralds the Chinese brand of capitalism, a "corporate kinder" flavor of capitalism minus all the messy machinations of democracy with a plentiful dosage of bribery and authoritarian style corruption. Celebratory remarks by Gates on China were peppered with his public pronouncement that he's betting against the U.S. dollar.

Other technology CEOs have been quite brazen in their embrace of China, including CISCO CEO John Chambers:

China will become the IT center of the world, and we can have a healthy discussion about whether that’s in 2020 or 2040. What we’re trying to do is outline an entire strategy of becoming a Chinese company.

I've stated it repeatedly -- what's good for corporate America is not necessarily good for America -- but most Americans are still hoodwinked. Look to the economies of Latin America for where this transformation and subsequent destruction of the middle class is going to take us.