Tuesday, April 30, 2002
Following up on my post about ABC's "The Bachelor," it appears that I was right about Alex Michel being something less than chivalrous. It turns out he's a lecherous piece of scum. Blogger Alex Rubalcava has posted some e-mails reportedly making their way through Harvard circles. Included is one reportedly from "the Bachelor" in which he says that ABC producers pressured him to choose Amanda and "Don't worry, I bagged Trista."
What a winner.
Saudi Arabia has been buying PR ads touting their close friendship with America.
Well, with friends like them, who really needs any enemies. They deliver "lectures" and "ultimatums" to our president. They persecute Christians. They fund Palestinian suicide bombers with telethons. They fund madrassas that teach a radical, intolerant form of Islam that directly resulted in the Sept. 11 attacks. Their ambassadors write poetry praising suicide bombers, and their spokesman try to explain it away.
Fortunately Americans are paying attention and aren't being swayed. In fact, despite the stereotype that money trumps all else in America, Sept. 11 has resulted in an urge to put patriotism and truth first.
"We had a raging debate," said a senior marketing executive at one of the cable networks approached to run the two 30-second spots." I looked at the tapes. I thought they were tastefully done," said this executive, who, citing the issue's sensitivity, asked for anonymity. "I didn't like the end line, '[Allies] Against Terrorism.'" This network ended up walking away from a buy that was worth approximately $300,000 to $400,000, the executive said.
If you've got to take out an ad to convince us you're our friend, then you're not our friend.
Hoystory has managed to get an advance copy of the Council on American-Islamic Relations 2002 report on civil rights. We spared no expense as we plied an unsuspecting CAIR intern with vodka and "exotic dancers."
Here is the executive summary of the report:
This year's report records a 200 percent increase in the number of complaints over the previous year. Most of these complaints occurred after the freedom fighter attacks of Sept. 11. While we initially suspected that the Jews were behind the attacks, further evidence revealed that to be a lie perpetrated by the Jews. It was actually Usama bin Laden, whom we considered condemning, but then thought better of it.
blessed tragic events of Sept. 11, Muslims have experienced increased scrutiny throughout American society. Some have claimed that Muslims in America might seek to mitigate some of these effects by demonstrating loyalty and understanding in the wake of what happened in the decadent city of New York. Thankfully, few have chosen that course. Instead, we have compiled a list of changes to the corrupt American society that will make Muslims feel more at home.
- All American women must wear a headscarf and veil.
- All American media outlets must follow Reuters guidelines on how to refer to freedom fighters, here and abroad.
- The sale of all pork products, particularly SPAM, will cease.
- The sale of all alcohol is banned.
- Any television shows featuring Pamela Anderson will only be available via illicit satellite dishes.
- Each town will form a militia for the "Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice." Bill Clinton and Gary Condit are barred from membership.
- All writers and commentators identified as pro-Israel by enlightened columnist Eric Alterman will immediately be jailed. Eric Alterman will be awarded 4 virgins -- if we can find any in America.
- All Jews will be expelled from the country and shipped to Israel, where they can be made more accessible to freedom fighters.
- Any Muslims converting to Christianity, or any other pagan religion, will be executed at the nearest stadium
- All churches and synagogues will be destroyed, as will all paintings and statues.
With just these minor changes, Muslims can be made to feel much more comfortable in America. While we do not expect these changes to take place overnight, we trust that American luminaries like Susan Sontag and Noam Chomsky will help lead the way as America undergoes its next great revolution. With Muslim civil rights paramount, America will become the best it can be. Much like the worldwide leaders in civil rights: Saudi Arabia and Syria.
As you can see, organizations like CAIR only want Muslims and non-Muslims alike to have the same rights they enjoy in places like Saudi Arabia and Syria.
Monday, April 29, 2002
I've got a confession to make. I'm 29 and I'm single. Now this isn't a bad thing, really mother. I've had various plans for finding a mate. The first one was to go on "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" win the million and then go on "Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire." Skippy and Darva screwed that plan up for me.
I'm not into reality shows, I usually spend my TV-watching hours enthralled with O'Reilly, Keyes or Hume, but one of my friends mentioned that he was watching the ABC show "The Bachelor." I expected that the show would be something like Fox's "Temptation Island," whose premise was ridiculous -- couples in "committed" relationships flirt with strangers. If they were in a committed relationship they wouldn't even think of putting themselves in that position.
Anyway, I watched the final few episodes of the show and the people I was most impressed with were Alex's parents. They had their heads on straight, but no one else did, until the final minutes when it appeared as though Alex might have some sense too -- maybe the apple didn't fall far from the tree.
I tried to put myself in The Bachelor's shoes as I was watching each episode, imagining how I would behave. I put a lot of stock in chivalry, being honest and not leading women on. The Bachelor did all of those. I would have gone much slower than he did. In the latter episodes it is suggested, and probably very likely, that he's sleeping with the women -- at least the two finalists. My beliefs and moral grounding prohibit me from doing that with a woman who is not first my wife.
By the time I'd kissed one of the women, it would probably be the last minutes of the final episode -- and it would be the one girl I had chosen. I think that the women who put up with Alex's "playing the field" were selling themselves really short, but fame and television can do that to you.
From everything I've gathered, The Bachelor is pretty normal.
I can't say exactly how I would behave in any given situation that I might face if ABC chose me for the "Bachelor II," but I wouldn't have done the same The Bachelor. I'm unsure of whether I would be boring because I'm not sucking face with every woman at the drop of a hat, or if it would create more suspense with viewers waiting for me to stumble.
Of course, I seldom have one woman chasing after me, let alone 25.
Sunday, April 28, 2002
The Council on Islamic American Relations (CAIR) is set to release a their annual report on the state of American Muslim Civil Rights on Tuesday. Check back here for a thorough dissection of it.
If you're checking it out yourself on Tuesday, think about what CAIR is complaining about vis a vis what Christians or Jews would face in Saudi Arabia.
Islam, the religion of peace: The Associated Press reports from Indonesia.
JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) - Assailants in black masks stabbed and burned to death 14 Christians, including a six-month-old baby, in the religiously divided capital of Indonesia's Maluku province on Sunday, threatening a fragile peace pact.
The killings came two days after a militant Islamic group, Laskar Jihad, rejected the February peace deal, which was meant to end three years of fighting between Muslims and Christians here that has left 9,000 dead.
Hey CAIR, care to denounce this?
Saturday, April 27, 2002
Frank Rich has a column in today's New York Times called "Religion for Dummies." Much of the column deals with the scandal in the Catholic Church. Rich is correct in his analysis that the Catholic Church hierarchy has screwed (no pun intended) themselves with their handling of it. Boston Cardinal Bernard Law needs to resign.
But later in the column, Law strays from the church scandal and starts attacking other "People of Religion," some who deserve it, some who don't.
It's depressing when the nation's spiritual mentors sound like businessmen fending off indictment, whether at Enron or Merrill Lynch — or, worse, like buck-passing politicians on the order of that preacher's son Gary Condit. In recent months, this seems to be a pattern. Not until weeks after the latest round of Richard Nixon Oval Office recordings were released — and only after a storm of reprimand — did Billy Graham take full responsibility for his anti-Semitic remarks about "the Jews." Even so, his son and successor, Franklin Graham, soon rescinded his father's mea culpa by asserting that the taped quotes had been taken out of context and meant to refer to "liberalism," not Jews. The younger Mr. Graham's disingenuousness is of a piece with Jerry Falwell's and Pat Robertson's pseudo-apology for their televised remarks in which they tried to pin the Sept. 11 attacks on the same all-purpose culprits (gays, feminists) whom some Catholic leaders now hope will take the fall for abusive priests and their enabling higher-ups.
I don't disagree with most of this analysis, except where Rich begins to refer to "all-purpose culprits (gays, feminists)." The crisis the Catholic church is undergoing right now is likely the fault of gay priests. Yes, I know that statistics show that most pedophiles are heterosexuals, but pedophilia refers to prepubescent children. Most of the priest sex scandals have involved post-pubescent boys. With that being the case, I think homosexuality in the priesthood is a valid issue to discuss.
And talking about feminists and other Catholic liberals, they have been on the TV using this as evidence to support for the ordination of women and allowing priests to marry. Now, the ordination of women is a whole separate issue that I'm not going to get into. But as far as this scandal being support for the argument that priests should marry. Do they actually believe that if priests who have a predisposition to sexually assault teenagers were married they'd keep their hands off?
But the abdication of personal responsibility by some religious leaders in America is only half of the confused moral equation since Sept. 11. If too many religious leaders sound like politicians right now, the flip side is that more and more politicians in power are rushing into the ensuing vacuum. They exploit the exigencies of war to sound like clergymen, seizing religious language to veil partisan public policies in a miasma of ersatz godliness.
Well, I can understand living in New York and being consumed with what's happening in Washington can breed a certain amount of cynicism. But Rich may have gone off the deep end. Whether he likes to admit it or not, Sept. 11 changed a lot of things. Maybe the references to the Almighty are honest and sincere.
With the exception of Tom DeLay — who this month announced that "only Christianity offers a way to live in response to the realities that we find in this world" — no politician in power has ratcheted up this rhetorical religiosity louder than John Ashcroft. In a February speech he declared, "We are a nation called to defend freedom — a freedom that is not the grant of any government or document, but is our endowment from God." So much, then, for that trifling document that defines our freedoms, a k a the Constitution. By wrapping himself in sanctimony as surely as he wrapped the Justice Department's statue of Justice in a blue curtain, our attorney general is trying to supersede civil law on the grounds that he's exercising the Lord's will whatever he does. Last week a U.S. district judge had to intervene and reprimand him for his repeated efforts to criminalize doctors who are obeying a law allowing physician-assisted suicide that has twice been approved by Oregon's voters.
Well, call me a Jesus Freak, but I agree with DeLay. There are other things that can help people to cope, but many Christians, myself included, believe that "only Christianity offers a way to live in response to the realities that we find in this world." Of course, we felt this to be the case before Sept. 11 too.
As far as Ashcroft's decision on Oregon's assisted suicide law, Rich has got it wrong. Doctors in Oregon are using drugs that are controlled by federal law to kill people. Ashcroft has a responsibility as the nation's top law-enforcement officer, to make sure that those drugs are used for therapeutic uses and not to kill. Ashcroft's position is a legal one, not a religious one. To say that Ashcroft made his decision based on religion is a lie. Though I will admit that his legal position does jive with his religious background, to say that his actions are controlled by his religion and not by the law is a slander. If it were true, however, I would expect liberals like Rich to call for Ashcroft's removal from office -- and they'd be right to do it.
I'd like to think that the Supreme Court will eventually uphold Ashcroft's position, but who knows what they'll do on a day-to-day basis. What I do know is that Rich and his ilk wouldn't be so quick to denounce the attorney general if he was attempting to overrule a state law that allowed corporations to dump toxic waste into rivers. It all depends on the law.
President Bush's penchant for stark religious terminology has waned in the international arena now that he has lost his innocence in the Middle East. He has yet to brand the Israelis, the Palestinians or, for that matter, the Saudis "evildoers." But on the domestic front he has joined Mr. Ashcroft in pumping up the volume of his preening sanctimony, referring to the Almighty so frequently that He is becoming his de facto running mate for 2004. The president's push to ban therapeutic cloning is typically cloaked in a stated reverence for human life, without any humble recognition of the fact that he is playing God in determining that the "life" of a blastocyst, a tiny cluster of cells, is worth more than the lives of those suffering from juvenile diabetes, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and other diseases whose remedies could be hastened by the most comprehensive medical research.
There's the cynicism again. Of course, Bush often referred to God as he was running for president, so that hasn't changed. For that matter, Gore did the same. As far as weighing the value of a human blastocyst against all human suffering, where would it possibly end? If it's OK with a blastocyst, what happens in 10 years when scientists say they believe that they can grow organs by using a fetus? At which point is a human a human?
If we learned anything from Sept. 11, surely it is that there is a reason to worry when politicians hijack religion — just as we've learned from the church's scandal of the dangers that abound when religious leaders value political self-preservation over protecting the defenseless in their flock.
Hijacking religion, or speaking honestly about one's religious beliefs in the public square? Many liberals are fine with people practicing their religion, as long as they don't talk about it.
Maybe if the headline really reflected Rich's attitude it would have been "Religion is for Dummies."
Friday, April 26, 2002
Paul "Line 47" Krugman praises Bush for his environmental policy in today's New York Times.
Yes, I'm kidding. I'll leave the thorough dissection of today's column up to some environmental expert, but I do want to make a couple of points.
Sure enough, the substantive part of the Bush administration's air pollution plan is a cap-and-trade system for sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and mercury. So what is there to complain about? Alas, lots.
First, the plan conspicuously fails to include carbon dioxide, the main cause of global warming. Aside from violating one of Mr. Bush's campaign pledges, this omission casts a long shadow over future policy. Environmental experts tell me that it would be much cheaper to reduce carbon dioxide emissions as part of an integrated, multi-pollutant strategy than to add on carbon dioxide controls later, after key investment decisions have already been made. So by doing nothing about global warming, this administration compromises the policies of future administrations too.
Carbon dioxide is expelled into the environment every time that Krugman opens his trap. Whether carbon dioxide contributes to global warming, and if it does, how much it contributes. Besides, if we really are successful then we'll have a massive die-off of trees. This would be bad -- and definitely Bush's fault.
Second, the Bush plan still allows twice as much pollution as experts at the Environmental Protection Agency privately think appropriate. The cost of an additional 50 percent reduction in pollution, according to internal E.P.A. documents, would be pretty small. But the administration apparently prefers not to ask industry to bear even those small costs.
Sorry, when it comes to estimating costs, I'm not going to take Krugman's, or the government's word for it. You know all those construction projects, highways, etc. that the government undertakes. How often do they come in on time and under budget? Never? Yeah, when they say it won't cost private industry or citizens much, excuse me if I don't believe it.
So what's actually on offer is a modest new pollution initiative, maybe, eventually, if and when the administration gets around to it. Don't you know there's a war on? And meanwhile the big polluters get what they paid for in campaign contributions: a multibillion-dollar free pass.
Yeah, and you know, when Bush has finished dumping toxic waste into Krugman's pool, he's going to start drowning kittens.
The first week that Alan Keyes had his MSNBC show, I watched a couple of episodes. I didn't like it much, because there wasn't enough of Keyes. I think he's probably one of the most intelligent, passionate, and well-spoken conservatives out there today.
The past couple of nights I've caught his show, and it seems to have improved greatly. Gone is the segment where Alan sits down with "regular people just like you." I hated that segment, because 99.9 percent of the time they weren't just like me -- they were idiots. Kudos to MSNBC.
Does Gray Davis really want to lose his re-election bid? Because he's doing a pretty good job of setting himself up for Bill Simon.
In Thursday's San Francisco Chronicle Davis weighs in on the issue of slave reparations -- on the wrong side.
With a landmark state study on slave-era insurance policies about to be released, Gov. Gray Davis addressed the issue of possible reparations to California minorities yesterday, saying, "Clearly, we want to right any wrongs and do justice to people who were taken advantage of."
OK, let my try to explain this to Gov. Davis. The people who were taken advantage of were SLAVES. Slavery ended in 1865. All of the people who were taken advantage of ARE DEAD!
While the slavery reparations issue is despicable, and nationwide is far out of favor, shakedown artist Jesse Jackson is giving Davis a gameplan for turning it around. You see, everyone was a victim and deserves money -- except the honkies.
Jackson, at a news conference, said the California Department of Insurance study on slave-era insurance practices represented "a ground-breaking national issue." He said the findings, scheduled to be released Wednesday, might raise the possibility of reparations from private businesses owed to African Americans -- and Californians of Chinese and Mexican descent.
"We do know that the same ships that brought Africans over, to become African Americans . . . brought in Chinese to the West Coast," said Jackson, referring to immigrant laborers, known derogatorily as "coolies," who worked on the railroads and other building projects, including the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta levees.
Let's just take all of the money from white people, rich and poor, and give it to non-whites. Because all whites (or their ancestors) are evil -- that's Jackson's worldview. And it's racist.
Jackson said African Americans, as well as Mexican Americans, also appeared to have been the victims of unethical insurance business practices in which they were charged more than whites for the same services.
Well, if this happened to anyone who is still alive, I think a class-action suit would probably be successful. I don't know how long ago the practice stopped -- I expect that it did. But if we're talking about having to do genealogical research to figure out who might be a part of the class, then I wouldn't hold my breath on anyone getting any money.
Jackson, in an editorial board meeting at The Chronicle this week, said he would not expect reparations to be paid to individuals but to nonprofit groups, educational programs, arts facilities or other groups that help minorities.
Aha! Jesse doesn't want the money for poor blacks -- he wants it for himself and his cronies. Jesse Jackson IS a nonprofit group. That's how he works. Jackson has moved up in the world. First he shakes down corporate America with threats of "racism" and boycotts, next up -- government.
Asked specifically about his position on reparations yesterday, the governor declined to comment, saying he would await the release of Low's formal findings.
But he noted, "I signed the legislation that commissioned the study by the insurance commissioner."
The state law, which took effect in January, authorizes state researchers to collect data on slaveholder insurance policies issued before 1865.
Davis promised that Low "will indicate in detail which, if any, companies have not treated their policyholders properly, and what the appropriate remedies are for those policyholders."
The insurance commissioner's study collected data on businesses that insured slaves, much the same as they insured cargo or property, Scott Esalen, public information officer for Low's office, said yesterday. In what appears to be an unexpected finding, some of the data collected has confirmed that some Chinese workers were insured in the same manner -- after one insurance firm submitted a policy covering "coolie" workers in response to the state's request for information, Esalen said yesterday.
A companion bill directs the University of California to hold a research conference to examine the economic legacy of slavery, which may well try to tote up the economic benefits of slavery for owners and the insurers. This study could attempt to put a dollar amount on the damages resulting from slavery, one source said yesterday.
Sing it with me...Money, money, money.....mooooney! You think your auto insurance rates are bad now, just wait until insurance companies are having to money to Jackson too.
But the issue of reparations to minorities in California -- which has the nation's largest minority population -- poses a potentially thorny problem for Davis in his re-election year.
The Democratic governor must satisfy the concerns of legions of minority voters in his Democratic base, who were represented in force yesterday at Jackson's business conference.
But 71 percent of the Californians who voted in the 2000 presidential election were non-Latino and white, studies have shown.
Davis also has been under fire from Republicans, including his opponent in November, Bill Simon, who charged this week that the governor had been unfriendly to California business; his support of reparations could hand the Republicans even more ammunition.
Davis suggested yesterday that he would side with Jackson on the issue.
"Clearly, we want to right any wrongs and do justice to people who were taken advantage of, if that is the case," Davis said. "I believe that will be the case."
If Davis does that -- he'll lose.
Thursday, April 25, 2002
Islam, the religion of peace: From Nigeria, whose justice system once brought you the classic hit "Rape victim sentenced to stoning death" comes another one.
Nigerian Muslim prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for two men accused of converting from Islam to Christianity.
Lawali Yakubu and Ali Jafaru have been given three days to re-convert by an Islamic court judge in Mada.
They are accused of joining the Great Commission Movement, an international evangelical church with a strong following in Nigeria.
Sharia court judge Auwal Jabaka said the Koran calls for the execution of Muslims who accept another religion.
But he said it is unclear whether the state's two-year-old Shariah penal code also permits such a punishment.
Jabaka adjourned the court for three days to allow the accused to "change their minds" and convert back to Islam.
In the meantime, he called on the Zamfara government to clarify its position on the matter.
"If the law empowers me to (execute the two for converting from Islam to Christianity), I will have no hesitation in doing that," the judge said.
It'd be nice if CAIR and the American Muslim Council would decry these sorts of things. Ever more evidence that Islam is only the religion of peace if it depends on what "peace" means.
Sen. Fritz "cash-and-carry" Hollings (D-Disney) writes an op-ed piece in Thursday's New York Times that challenges Paul "Line 47" Krugman for inanity. In the article, entitled "The Delusion of Free Trade," Hollings argues for expansive economic isolationism that would fail to protect American jobs in the long run and would generate hostility abroad in the short run.
In their eagerness to move production offshore, the National Association of Manufacturers, the Chamber of Commerce and the National Federation of Independent Business all join in a chant of "free trade, fast track." The retailers who make a bigger profit on imported goods cry "free trade, fast track," and newspapers, who make money from retail advertising, editorialize for free trade. But these cries are not really for making trade free — they are for transferring power over trade to the executive branch and favored corporate interests. This should not be the way economic policy works in a democracy.
Oh my gosh! American manufacturers and retailers want to make a bigger (taxable) profit! No! Say it isn't so, Fritz!
There it is again -- the Bush administration is in the pocket of corporate interests. Hollings can see it clearly from Michael Eisner's pocket.
The Bush administration contends that trade agreements are passing us by because the president doesn't have fast track authority. This is baloney. During the 90's we entered into more than nearly 200 international commercial agreements without fast track, including the Caribbean Basin Initiative, and agreements with sub-Saharan Africa, Jordan and Vietnam.
A few minutes of research at the U.S. Trade Representative's Web site reveals that Hollings has intimate carnal knowledge with baloney. According to the site, the Caribbean Basin Initiative grew out of a 1983 agreement that was expanded in 2000. So, it was in effect in the 1990s, but it wasn't really "entered into" during the 90s. The agreement with sub-Saharan Africa was negotiated during the 90s, but OK'd by Congress in 2000. Fast track authority merely allows for speedier negotiations -- hence the name. As a reporter, I covered city government in Hoquiam, Wash., where 13 people (six wards with two representatives each plus the mayor) and found it to be painful to get anything done. Too many chefs spoil the soup.
Under Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution it is not the president but Congress that shall "regulate commerce with foreign nations." But the fix is in. The fast track bill will be called in the Senate only when the White House knows it has the 60 votes necessary to invoke cloture. Debate will therefore be limited. No one will listen to it anyway because they'll know the vote is fixed. Fast track will be passed, and the United States will continue to lose business.
Well, Fritz, one of the basics of running a democratic government intelligently is only bringing something you want to a vote when you're sure you're going to win. Fritz, if debate wasn't limited, then you and your buddies would filibuster and it would never get voted on. Besides, according to your leader, Sen. Tom Daschle, controversial subjects like this require 60 votes -- so why should anyone bother if they've got less? As far as no one listening to the debate, you know that's a lie. You'll get quoted in the newspaper and whoever comes up with the best soundbite will be on the evening news. I'll get to the contention that the United States will lose business later.
This failure to protect American workers is of relatively recent vintage. Since American independence, controls on trade gave government a way to shelter industries from foreign competition so they could grow or restructure. Tariffs were also an important source of government revenue. (There was no income tax until 1913.) President Lincoln protected steel, President Franklin Roosevelt instituted protectionism for agriculture and President Eisenhower for oil. The industrial giant of America was built on careful protectionism.
And President Bush, in 2002, protected steel. Is Bush for workers or against? The president is a riddle wrapped in an enigma inside a Chinese fortune cookie.
Has Fritz noticed that the American economy has been booming since all of these horrible free trade agreements have been ratified? What does this tell us about protectionism vs. free trade?
This changed after World War II. We were the world's leading industrial power. Devastated countries in Europe and Asia were given aid, equipment and the expertise to rebuild — and the cold war was won. Fundamental to this victory was the American treatment of foreign trade as foreign aid. We set an example by opening up the American market. But our competition refused to follow suit. Instead, they protected their manufacturers.
And when the competition refused to follow suit we punished them with tariffs. This is the way the world works, though it is apparently tough for Fritz to comprehend from Eisner's pocket.
As our competitors began to prosper, American managers were learning a different lesson from their experiences with overseas rebuilding. They learned that moving work overseas could save money. Labor costs in manufacture can be 30 percent of sales. A company that retains its executive offices in America but moves its production to a low-wage area could save as much as 20 percent in sales volume. Thus, a corporation with $500 million in sales could increase its pretax profits by $100 million. Accordingly, manufacture has been leaving the United States in droves. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, little South Carolina has lost 53,900 textile jobs since the free trade agreement with Mexico. Since the 1979 Tokyo Round agreements — in which fast-track authority took on its current form — America has lost more than four million manufacturing jobs, or 20 percent of our manufacturing work force.Giving fast-track authority to President Bush will only worsen this problem.
OK, moving work overseas increases profits. If profits are increased, according to our progressive tax system, then tax receipts will also increase. When we've got budget deficits, is this a bad thing?
Fritz says the textile industry in South Carolina has been hard-hit -- 53,900 jobs went poof since NAFTA went into effect in 1994. Wow...all those South Carolinians out of work -- or are they?
According to the South Carolina Employment Security Commission, the picture was a little different than that painted by Fritz.
The nonagricultural job count reached 1.9 million in 2000, with the addition of over 46,000 jobs. Industries posting healthy employment gains over the year were services (+17,300), trade (+9,000) and government (+8,000). Manufacturing employment rebounded in 2000, adding 2,700 jobs compared to a 2,800 decline in 1999. The main contributors to this increase were the automotive-related sectors, boosted by recent high-profile expansions announced by BMW and Robert Bosch Corporation.
South Carolina’s unemployment rate averaged 3.9% in 2000, down from 4.5% in 1999.
South Carolina continued to experience an increase in population, due to increased job growth and internal migration.
And the list goes on. Those textile jobs were turned into different kinds of jobs. And like the rest of the nation, South Carolina ultimately prospered.
Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, hundreds of millions of people have entered the world's workforce ready to accept a minimal standard of living. In contrast, America continues to protect or raise its standard of living with requirements for a minimum wage, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, safe workplaces and machinery, clean air and water, plant closing notice and unpaid parental leave. A plant can move to Mexico and find a workforce with none of these requirements and an average individual wage that is 11 percent of the American equivalent.
Actually, hundreds of millions of people have always been in the world's workforce ready to accept a minimal standard of living. For many poor countries, the only natural resource they have is their people. Since the start of the industrial revolution people have been paid a pittance for manual labor. Hollings truly does not understand even the basics of economics. Yes, a plant can be moved to Mexico and not have to pay all of those taxes. Of course, it also has much less-skilled workers with less education. It's not like Intel can move a computer processor design plant to Mexico.
While professional protestors at Berkeley have decried the pay that people who manufacture Nike shoes overseas receive, it is quite a livable wage in those countries -- but it's not in Bezerkely, so they protest.
Today, more than half of what we consume as a nation is imported, and we produce little to export. Recently I rode Acela, the fast train from Washington to New York that was made in Canada. Advanced technology, which was supposed to be the motor of domestic growth, is now imported. We have a deficit in the balance of trade in semiconductors, according to the International Trade Commission. My insurance policy is administered in Dublin, my light bill in Bangalore, India.
So, Hollings little anecdotes prove that he is right. So he rode a train imported from Canada. When he flies home to South Carolina from Washington, is Fritz flying in an Airbus or a Boeing?
This mantra of "free trade, fast track" must not keep us from seeing the drawbacks of simply allowing merchants and whoever is president determine the shape of our nation. We have done very well for more than two centuries with having substantial democratic control of commercial relations. There is every reason to continue with it.
There's the "Big Lie" -- businesses run the country.
What Hollings never seems to mention is, even with fast track authority, that the agreements Bush make do not automatically become law. The Congress must still approve them. And, as Hollings points out, it would take only 41 Senators to stop any unacceptable agreements. With 50 Democrats and 1 independent in the Senate -- we're guaranteed that there will be substantial "Democratic" control of commercial relations.
Years ago, Akio Morita of Sony admonished third world nations that they had to develop strong manufacturing sectors to become nation states. Turning to me, he said, "Senator, that world power that loses its manufacturing capacity will cease to be a world power."
Well, of course the head of Sony has to be correct -- just look at the Japanese economy -- the envy of the world.
Wednesday, April 24, 2002
The Drudge Report was linking to a story in the Houston Chronicle about how a staff member's note from President Bush's time as the governor of Texas shows how he does business -- with little or no paper trail. Unlike Nixon who taped everything, it appears as though Bush (as any sane person would nowadays) prefers not to have everything written down where it can be subpoenaed by foes in Congress trolling for dirt.
But you have to read the entire story to get to the juicy center.
After Bush became president, his administration cut funding for the Ex-Im Bank by 25 percent, a major blow to corporations such as Boeing that relied heavily on the bank's loans to promote exports.
The cut was a major surprise to the U.S. corporate community that had backed his presidential bid. Bush's cut in bank funding was denounced by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
So much for this Republican president practicing "cash and carry" government and being in the thrall of big business.
If you're looking for a quick primer on the historical background of the current Middle East conflict, go here.
More news from the silent partner in Bush's Axis of Evil -- China. The persecution of Christians continues in the evil communist state.
Police demolish church under construction in Hebei
Rome (Fides) – On April 11 police demolished a Catholic church in Xiao Zhao village in the province of Hebei, 200 kilometers south of Beijing. Xiao Zhao village is in the underground diocese of Zhen Ding. The local Catholics, who had obtained the land and regular building permit for the church from the local authorities, fear that the demolition orders may have come from higher authorities.
Early yesterday morning, a security force of about 2000 men entered the village. Military tanks pushed down the semi-finished walls of the building and the foundations were destroyed with explosives. The local Catholic community, about 700 people, could do nothing to stop the demolition. Eyewitnesses say they simply stood and watched, "crying and praying".
The United States government needs to stop kidding itself about China. That government is brutal to its people and should be abolished. Anything we can do to further the eventual overthrow of the Chinese government we should do.
As one of my readers noted, Al Gore's op-ed piece in the New York Times on Sunday referred to Bush administration ties with Enron a number of times. Gore was trying to hammer home what is sure to be an issue raised by Democrats over the next three years.
The problem is, Gore had better not be the one wielding the hammer or he's likely to have a lot of crushed fingers.
In an article on National Review Online, Christopher C. Horner provides every Gore opponent, Democrat and Republican, with a list of ties that the Clinton-Gore administration had with Enron. If it doesn't look good for Bush, it doesn't look good for Gore either. People in glass houses....
If you want to know what's really going on in the scientific field regarding stem cell research, don't count on finding it in the mainstream media. Kudos to the National Review and Wesley J. Smith for collecting information about beneficial adult stem cell research.
Interesting and telling factoid:
How many humans have been treated by embryonic stem cells? Zero. Indeed, before human trials can even be safely undertaken researchers will have to overcome two serious difficulties that stand between patients and embryonic-cell regenerative medicine: 1) ES cells cause tumors, and 2) ES cells may be rejected by the immune system. Surmounting these difficulties — if they can be surmounted at all — will take a very long time and much expense. There is no risk of rejection with adult cells, by contrast, because they come from the patients' own bodies. Nor, at least so far, does adult-stem-cell therapy appear to cause tumors. This puts adult therapies years ahead of the game.
You'd think that journalists would be praising the successful adult stem cell research and treatment that's going on, and panning the beleaguered embryonic stem cell research. Unfortunately the opposite is true.
Tuesday, April 23, 2002
Maybe I'm mistaken, but I've always thought that most readers of the New York Times were a little above average when it comes to knowledge of current events and crossword puzzles. I'd think that's one perception that a newspaper would want to guard zealously. It looks much better to advertisers -- our readers are smarter, prettier and doggone it, people just like them.
But, on today's op-ed page, Paul "Line 47" Krugman does his best to treat his readers as idiots who haven't read the newspaper over the last two days.
[A] slightly left-of-center candidate runs for president. In a rational world he would win easily. After all, his party has been running the country, with great success: unemployment is down, economic growth has accelerated, the sense of malaise that prevailed under the previous administration has evaporated.
RIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIGHT! Because everyone in the world knows that if you're not left-of-center you're just not an intelligent, enlightened person.
But everything goes wrong. His moderation becomes a liability; denouncing the candidate's pro-market stance, left-wing candidates — who have no chance of winning, but are engaged in politics as theater — draw off crucial support. The candidate, though by every indication a very good human being, is not a natural campaigner; he has, say critics, "a professorial style" that seems "condescending and humorless" to many voters. Above all, there is apathy and complacency among moderates; they take it for granted that he will win, or that in any case the election will make little difference.
The result is a stunning victory for the hard right. It's by and large a tolerant, open-minded country; but there is a hard core, maybe 20 percent of the electorate, that is deeply angry even in good times. And owing to the peculiarities of the electoral system, this right-wing minority prevails even though more people actually cast their votes for the moderate left.
It's by and large a tolerant, open-minded country -- as long as you're not Jewish or American. And it's not exactly what Krugman has suggested. This is the equivalent of a primary election in the U.S. Krugman's concern that the "hard right" will take over the presidency of France is unwarranted.
If all this sounds like a post-mortem on the Gore campaign in 2000, that's intentional. But I'm actually describing Sunday's shocking election in France, in which the current prime minister, Lionel Jospin, placed third, behind the rabid rightist Jean-Marie Le Pen. Until very recently, Mr. Le Pen was regarded as a spent force. Now he has scored an astonishing triumph.
It didn't sound like a post-mortem on the Gore campaign to anyone -- because, with the exception of the "hard left" of the Democratic party who are "deeply angry," the American public got over it. Where did Krugman come up with this idea? What gave him the idea that this little literary device would actually work?
What the French election revealed is that in France, as in the United States, there are a lot of angry people. They aren't a majority; Mr. Le Pen received about 17 percent of the vote, less than Ross Perot got here in 1992. But they are highly motivated, and can exert influence out of proportion to their numbers if moderates take a tolerant society for granted.
Ahhh...I understand now. Conservatives are, by definition, intolerant and angry people. They are also a small minority. Most Americans are part of Krugman's moderate left. Of course, if that were the case, the moderate left would actually be the center.
And let's completely ignore the fact that Bush is very pro-immigrant, while Le Pen demonizes foreigners in his nation and is an anti-Semitic holocaust-denier. To simple people like Krugman, the two are one and the same.
What are the angry people angry about? Not economics; peace and prosperity did not reconcile them to Bill Clinton or to Mr. Jospin. Instead, it seems to be about traditional values. Our angry right rails against godless liberals; France's targets immigrants. In both cases, what really seems to bother them is the loss of certainty; they want to return to a simpler time, one without that disturbing modern mix of people and ideas.
I think most people would reject Krugman's analysis. Actually, "conservative Republican" is becoming a misnomer. Republicans were the ones pushing to change welfare, they want to privatize Social Security, add a prescription drug benefit to Medicare -- these are all changes. Conservatives, by definition, want to hold tight to the status quo. Democrats who find themselves opposed to these changes are actually the conservative ones.
I'm also not going to let the "peace and prosperity" thing go unchallenged. The economy was beginning to tank during Clinton's last year in office as the dot-com bubble burst. As far as peace, in hindsight we can see what the Clinton-Gore administration's reactions to the first World Trade Center bombing, the U.S. African embassies bombings and the bombing of the USS Cole brought us. In hindsight we might have wished a little less peace during his term.
And in both cases this angry minority has had far more influence than its numbers would suggest, largely because of the fecklessness of the left and the apathy of moderates. Al Gore had Ralph Nader; Mr. Jospin had a potpourri of silly leftists (two Trotskyists took 10 percent of the vote). And both men were mocked and neglected by complacent moderates.
Wait, it's the "angry" Republicans' fault that Nader ran? It's the Republicans fault that Nader did well enough in Florida to put a lock on Gore's loss? If you're drawing parallels between the 2000 election campaign and last weekend's French election, then the "angry" people would be those on the far left who voted for Nader.
Now for the important difference. Mr. Le Pen is a political outsider; his showing in Sunday's election puts him into the second-round runoff, but he won't actually become France's president. So his hard-right ideas won't be put into practice anytime soon.
In the United States, by contrast, the hard right has essentially been co-opted by the Republican Party — or maybe it's the other way around. In this country people with views that are, in their way, as extreme as Mr. Le Pen's are in a position to put those views into practice.
Krugman's analysis would lead most to believe that Bush's 70+ percent approval rating is due to -- what? Are 70+ percent of the American people "angry, hard-righters?" If Krugman had been reading the paper in the last week or so he'd see that the "hard-right" that he decries has been criticizing Bush on his foreign policy. So much for co-opting the Republican Party. Talk about wanting a return to simpler times, the world is so much more complicated that Krugman makes it out to be.
Consider, for example, the case of Representative Tom DeLay. Last week Mr. DeLay told a group that he was on a mission from God to promote a "biblical worldview," and that he had pursued the impeachment of Bill Clinton in part because Mr. Clinton held "the wrong worldview." Well, there are strange politicians everywhere. But Mr. DeLay is the House majority whip — and, in the view of most observers, the real power behind Speaker Dennis Hastert.
And then there's John Ashcroft.
Ohhh...that's a good one....whenever you want to elicit fear among the nation's liberals, all you have to do is mention Ashcroft's name. Scary!
What France's election revealed is that we and the French have more in common than either country would like to admit. There as here, there turns out to be a lot of irrational anger lurking just below the surface of politics as usual. The difference is that here the angry people are already running the country.
Nader's running the country? I'm sure he'll be excited to hear that! The main thing that the United States has in common with France is an elitist left that thinks it knows better than everyone else. Krugman's proof of that.
Sarah Eltantawi of the Muslim Public Affairs Council got a history lesson from Alan Keyes on his show last night. Eltantawi actually tried to suggest that the Israelis started the 1967 war. Keyes didn't let the big lie continue and called her on it. Mainly because Keyes lived through it and Eltantawi is young enough (as am I) to have only read about it in history books. Obviously, Eltantawi read some books of questionable veracity.
Keyes had other guests, including the PLO representative to the United States on. He didn't let his lies go unchallenged either.
The argument, battles, terrorism and wars betweent the Palestinians and Arabs will continue for at least for the rest of my life. The hate inculcated in Palestinian children guarantees there will be no peace there for at least one more generation.
Monday, April 22, 2002
Fresh from alleging brutal atrocities at Camp X-Ray at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Amnesty International is now screaming bloody murder -- literally. Amnesty International has done its best since Sept. 11 to become the embodiment of the proverbial "boy who cried wolf."
The most curious comments in the article came from a Scotsman.
Forensic pathologist Derrick Pounder from Dundee University in Scotland, who had just returned from Jenin, said the lack of severely injured people admitted to the hospital backed claims that Palestinian doctors and ambulance men had been impeded.
"There were no severely injured in the hospital, and very few corpses. It is inconceivable that, as well as the dead, there were not large numbers of severely injured," said Pounder, who estimated a conflict of this nature and intensity would have produced roughly three badly injured victims to every one dead.
He said he saw 21 Palestinians corpses in Jenin hospital. The casualties were a mixture of civilian and military, he said, and included three women.
One was a 52-year-old man, wearing sandals, who had been shot in the chest, and another 38-year-old, wearing ordinary clothes, had been shot in the back and the top of the foot.
"The claim that only fighters were killed is simply not true," Pounder said. "In Jenin, there have certainly been mass killings -- both of combatants and civilians."
First, a forensic pathologist is like one of those guys on CSI -- they find out how people were killed. This person was shot. That person was crushed. This other person was ripped apart by shrapnel. Unless he has other psychic credentials, his determination that war crimes occured because of the health of the survivors in hospital is questionable at best and slanderous at worst.
Pounder's description of the corpses being a mixture of civilian and military is a joke. How can he tell just from looking at them if they're civilian or military? The problem the Israelis were having was that the terrorists weren't wearing uniforms! You also can no longer say without equivocation that women are automatically innocent, due to the recent suicide attackers who are women.
Amnesty International has become anti-American and anti-Israeli. It once had some semblence of moral currency when it highlighted human rights abuses in places like China and Cuba -- no more.
Searching the Web for Earth Day stories I came across this one at ABCNews.com entitled: "Is Venus Our Future? Scientists Seeking to Learn More About Earth Through Its 'Twin' " The piece is appropriately written by Amanda Onion -- because the thing stinks.
Anyone curious about what a worst-case global warming scenario might look like could peer through space to Earth's closest cousin: Venus.
Although Earth and Venus are very similar in size, mass and density, Venus is enshrouded in a thick layer of carbon dioxide and sulfuric acid that traps heat in and leads to extreme warming.
This has made the planet hotter — much hotter.
Average temperatures on the cloud-choked planet average about 800 degrees Fahrenheit. The inferno-like conditions on Venus have led some to call it "Earth's evil twin." Researchers believe there is much we might learn about our own planet through Earth's darker, hotter twin and this week scientists from the European Union and NASA are meeting to discuss possible missions to Venus in 2005.
I don't doubt that there are things that we can learn from Venus' environment. But the way this article is written, it paints this picture that, if we don't stop it now, Earth will turn into another Venus. Of course, the article fails to mention one pertinent fact: Venus is 42 million kilometers closer to the sun than Earth is.
Color me skeptical, but maybe that has something to do with the proximity to the sun.
Well, today is Earth Day, and much of it was spent following the Gore line of referring to Bush as the worst environmental despoiler since Saddam Hussein set oil wells afire upon leaving Kuwait. I caught a few minutes of ABC's "World News Tonight" and their Earth Day report. After a quick blurb from Bush, reporter Terry Moran had a blurb from Gore and then used some fancy-schmancy graphics to outline all of the horrible things that Bush has done since assuming office. Number one on the hit-list was the already-discredited Kyoto treaty. The report finished up with an environmental activist decrying the pollution that Bush is allowing to occur.
A good response to this hogwash can be found here. [Requires Adobe Acrobat -- ed.] The piece by Gregg Easterbrook is aptly entitled: "Everything You Know About the Bush Environmental Record is Wrong."
You can read it all, but it does show you that when Bush does something good for the environment there's barely a peep from the media. But when he does something that is perceived as bad for the environment (whether or not it actually is), it is plastered across the front page of newspapers 80-point headlines.
Here are some of my favorite excerpts. On Kyoto:
Even if Kyoto is “fatally flawed,” as Bush declared, his withdrawal was done in a high-handed manner that failed to show respect for multilateral diplomacy; and having declared Kyoto kaput, Bush made himself look feeble by failing to propose an alternative. But in no sense did the president “ kill” rules on carbon dioxide, because there aren’t any carbon dioxide rules to kill. No law currently governs this substance, either in the United States or the European Union. Neither Bill Clinton nor Al Gore, when in the White House, ever proposed any binding rules on carbon dioxide. True, Kyoto would have created greenhouse-gas rules. But even here, Bush cannot be accused of a “kill.” Clinton never submitted the protocol to the Senate, because he knew there was no chance it would be ratified; in a 1997 floor test, the Senate rejected key provisions of the Kyoto proposal by 95-0, meaning the idea failed to draw even one Democratic vote.
On arsenic, diesel fuel and the media:
Just a few weeks into his presidency, Bush and Whitman decided to uphold a strict, sweeping Clinton proposal that diesel fuel be chemically reformulated to reduce its inherent pollution content. (Reformulation of gasoline, which has occurred largely outside the public eye, is a reason smog is declining almost everywhere, even in Los Angeles and Houston.) Bush went ahead with the diesel fuel regulation, though it will cost billions of dollars and was vehemently opposed by the petroleum industry, to which Bush is supposedly sold out. The president upheld the rule because its scientific grounding is very strong: studies have shown that diesel pollutants cause respiratory disease and thousands of annual premature deaths.
Yet though the public-health significance of the diesel regulation is far greater than of the arsenic decision, most newspapers did not put the diesel decision on page one, while pundits denouncing the White House about the environment never mention this subject. It’s a sign of the media one-track mind that even after Bush announced had imposed the new diesel regulation and upheld the Clinton arsenic rule, the New York Times ran a prominent story headlined, BUSH TEAM IS REVERSING ENVIRONMENTAL POLICIES.
On coverage of Bush environmental policy:
I had a conversion with a New York Times editor about why the paper was carpetbombing the Midwest powerplants angle while saying almost nothing about the far more significant national emission-reduction proposal. The conversation went approximately as follows.
Me. Why aren’t you praising the Bush emission reduction proposal?
Editor. Because he wants to replace current rules with a single standard. That means eliminating regulations. That makes it a rollback.
Me. But pollution would decline. What is the goal, more regulations or less pollution?
Editor. Anything that changes an existing regulation is rollback. We are opposed to rollbacks.
Well, it's certainly easier to handle a complicated world if you do your best not to think too hard. You'd think that the New York Times would be able to hire editors who possess critical thinking skills and can handle more than one thought at a time.
Easterbrook's whole piece is only 11 pages, double-spaced. Give it a read.
Sunday, April 21, 2002
Most scientists say the Earth is warming. Most of them also think that humans are responsible for it. Or at least they say that in an effort to get research money. I mean, after all, if it were normal for the Earth as a whole to periodically warm and cool, then there'd really be no worries. But, if humans are responsible, then something must be done about it.
I'm skeptical about global warming. I remember 20-some-odd years ago in all of the popular scientific magazines the climate experts warned of the coming ice age.
So, when environmental extremists suggest that we put the brakes on the recovering economy to lower the global temperature by less than 1 degree Celsius.
Former Vice President Al Gore is one of those who sees doom around every corner, despite all of the evidence to the contrary.
In an editorial today in The New York Times Gore takes Bush to task, and uses every one of the Democratic Party's "Big Lies" about Republicans.
Under the presidency of George W. Bush, the environmental and energy policies of our government are completely dominated by a group of current and former oil and chemical company executives who are trying to dismantle America's ability to force them to reduce the extremely dangerous levels of pollution in the earth's atmosphere.
There's "Big Lie" No. 1: Republicans hate nature. In fact, it was probably a Republican who killed Bambi's mom -- and Gore's still mad about it.
The first step was to withdraw from the agreement reached in Kyoto to begin limiting worldwide emissions of greenhouse gases. Then the administration cancelled an agreement requiring automobile companies to make the leap to more fuel-efficient vehicles.
Everyone knows Kyoto was a joke and would never be implemented. The Senate made that clear. Clinton knew it and that's why he never submitted it to Congress for ratification. Why in the world would the U.S. do environmental contortions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions when China and India, under the protocol, would be free to emit as much as they want.
Other acts of sabotage are taking place behind the scenes. Just as Enron executives were allowed to interview candidates for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission — and to veto those they didn't think would approve of Enron's agenda — ExxonMobil has been allowed to veto the United States government's selection of who will head the prestigious scientific panel that monitors global warming. Dr. Robert Watson, the highly respected leader of the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change, was blackballed in a memo to the White House from the nation's largest oil company. The memo had its effect last Friday, when Dr. Watson lost his bid for re-election after the administration threw its weight behind the "let's drag our feet" candidate, Dr. Rajendra Pachauri of New Delhi, who is known for his virulent anti-American statements.
There's "Big Lie" No. 2: Republicans are slaves to corporate America. The difference between Democrats and Republicans is that Democrats don't care if businesses fail, if a "greater good" results. The problem is that ofttimes the "greater good" is dubious economically.
Why is this happening?
Because the largest polluters know their only hope for escaping restrictions lies in promoting confusion about global warming.
Just as Enron needed auditors who wouldn't blow the whistle when the company lied about the magnitude of its future liabilities, the administration needs scientific reviews that won't sound the alarm on the destruction of the earth's climate balance.
How long they get away with it depends on how long they can sow confusion and doubt. But with folks wearing bikinis in Boston in the middle of April and with the massive melting of ice at both poles and in nearly every mountain glacier on earth, public awareness and concern are growing rapidly.
I love the argument that the science is settled, and if you don't believe me I've got some anecdotes that really settle it. Notice that today's argument is bikinis in Boston. But anytime there is weird weather they attribute it to global warming, even if it is a colder-than-normal winter. Whatever happens with the weather it's global warming.
At a time when the world needs enduring leadership from the United States to rally all nations to join in a concerted effort to stop global warming, the administration is working overtime to block any progress whatsoever.
So tomorrow, on this Earth Day, more than ever before, we need real, forward-thinking leadership and a renewed focus on the environment. True leadership means ensuring that we take the necessary steps to leave a cleaner environment for generations to come — and that means strengthening environmental protections.
The United States has some of the strongest environmental protections in the world. The environment is cleaner today than it was a century ago. It is cleaner today than it was 20 years ago. As far as stopping global warming goes, even Kyoto wasn't promising to put a halt to global warming. Rhetorically it sounds good, but it is also impossible.
I'm not even going to bother with the rest of Gore's column, because it's the same drivel over and over again. If Gore wants to run on this in 2004, he's welcome to. I don't think it will do him any good.
I'm writing and watching the San Diego Padres vs. L.A. Dodgers on TV right now. The color commentator is former major-leaguer Rick Sutcliffe. Sutcliffe splits his time between doing Padres telecasts and some work for ESPN. I think he's probably the worst color-man in the business. The guy comes across as a big, pompous know-it-all ass. The Padres should fire him, or at least allow us to mute just Sutcliffe's inanities.
Shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks, polls showed that many Democrats were actually happy that George W. Bush was president. They believed that in time of war Gore certainly wasn't the man for the job. Former President Jimmy Carter's op-ed in today's New York Times offers evidence that maybe the anti-Gore sentiment wasn't personal. There's a distinct possibility that opinions of moral-equivalence like Carter's, if repeated for the next three years, will only add support to the Republican party.
In January 1996, with full support from Israel and responding to the invitation of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, the Carter Center helped to monitor a democratic election in the West Bank and Gaza, which was well organized, open and fair. In that election, 88 members were elected to the Palestinian National Authority, with Yasir Arafat as president. Legally and practically, the Palestinian people were encouraged to form their own government, with the expectation that they would soon have full sovereignty as a state.
In 1996, Arafat was elected to a four-year term as Palestinian president. There hasn't been another election since then. The Palestinians did form a government -- a corrupt one -- that used money from the United States and the European Union to line the pockets of Arafat and his cohorts. Even before Israel's latest incursions, most Palestinians lived much of their lives in atrocious conditions. This is due more to Arafat's "administration" than it is the Israelis.
When the election was over, I made a strong effort to persuade the leaders of Hamas to accept the election results, with Mr. Arafat as their leader. I relayed a message offering them full participation in the process of developing a permanent constitutional framework for the new political entity, but they refused to accept this proposal. Despite this rejection, it was a time of peace and hope, and there was no threat of violence or even peaceful demonstrations. The legal status of the Palestinian people has not changed since then, but their plight has grown desperate.
And you couldn't figure out why Hamas wouldn't go along with the peace plan? Maybe it's because there is a number of Palestinians who think that Israel should not exist as a Jewish state and will do whatever they can to destroy it. While Arafat has run the Palestinian schools he has not raised up the next generation of children to be prepared for a peaceful coexistence with Israel. Instead they are taught that suicide bombers are martyrs. While Arafat has controlled the Palestinian media he has not prepared his people for peace. Instead he uses it to encourage terrorism.
The time since the election has not been a time of peace and hope -- at least for the Israelis. Arafat used all of this time to build the hatred and the terrorist infrastructure. Does the Karine A ring a bell with the former president?
Ariel Sharon is a strong and forceful man and has never equivocated in his public declarations nor deviated from his ultimate purpose. His rejection of all peace agreements that included Israeli withdrawal from Arab lands, his invasion of Lebanon, his provocative visit to the Temple Mount, the destruction of villages and homes, the arrests of thousands of Palestinians and his open defiance of President George W. Bush's demand that he comply with international law have all been orchestrated to accomplish his ultimate goals: to establish Israeli settlements as widely as possible throughout occupied territories and to deny Palestinians a cohesive political existence.
I'm not sure whether Carter's analysis is just ignorant or slanderous. The current intifada began when Ehud Barak was the Israeli prime minister. The people turned to Ariel Sharon after their civilians started dying. Sharon's visit to the temple mount was the flimsiest excuse in the world for suicide attacks. After all, Sharon was only visiting the most sacred site in Judaism.
I also take issue with Carter's characterization of Sharon (and therefore Israel's) ultimate goals. Israel's ultimate goal is peace with its neighbors and security. As has been said time and time again, Arafat got the vast majority of what he wanted at Wye River, but he refused to seal the deal. Sharon wants peace, it's Arafat who doesn't.
There is adequate blame on the other side. Even when he was free and enjoying the full trappings of political power, Yasir Arafat never exerted control over Hamas and other radical Palestinians who reject the concept of a peaceful Israeli existence and adopt any means to accomplish their goal. Mr. Arafat's all-too-rare denunciations of violence have been spasmodic, often expressed only in English and likely insincere. He may well see the suicide attacks as one of the few ways to retaliate against his tormentors, to dramatize the suffering of his people, or as a means for him, vicariously, to be a martyr.
Arafat never exerted control over Hamas or Islamic Jihad because he they are cut from the same cloth. As I mentioned before, it is Arafat who has also rejected the concept of a peaceful existence with Israel.
Tragically, the policies of Mr. Sharon have greatly strengthened these criminal elements, enhanced their popular support, and encouraged misguided young men and women to sacrifice their own lives in attacking innocent Israeli citizens. The abhorrent suicide bombings are also counterproductive in that they discredit the Palestinian cause, help perpetuate the military occupation and destruction of villages, and obstruct efforts toward peace and justice.
Sharon's policies have prompted the attacks? What about Arafat? Arafat created the atmosphere that spurred these suicide attacks. He is the one who declared suicide bombers to be "blessed martyrs." After re-reading that paragraph, I almost believe that it's a typo. Arafat's name fits so much better there than Sharon's.
The situation is not hopeless. There is an ultimate avenue to peace in the implementation of United Nations resolutions, including Resolution 242, expressed most recently in the highly publicized proposal of Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Abdullah. The basic premises of these resolutions are withdrawal of Israelis from Palestinian lands in exchange for full acceptance of Israel and Israel's right to live in peace. This is a reasonable solution for many Israelis, having been accepted in 1978 by Prime Minister Menachem Begin and ratified by the Israeli Knesset. Egypt, offering the greatest threat to Israel, responded by establishing full diplomatic relations and honoring Israeli rights, including unimpeded use of the Suez canal. This set a pattern for what can and must be done by all other Arab nations. Through constructive negotiations, both sides can consider some modifications of the 1967 boundary lines.
Deja vu all over again. This didn't work the last time. Wye River. Remember? Why would it work now? After hundreds of Israelis have been murdered by bombers.
East Jerusalem can be jointly administered with unimpeded access to holy places, and the right of return can be addressed by permitting a limited number of displaced Palestinians to return to their homeland with fair compensation to others. It will be a good investment for the international community to pay this cost.
The right-of-return is a non-starter. A "limited" right-of-return is also a joke that will make no one happy. As far as paying the middle-eastern equivalent of reparations -- I'm not so hot about that either. If the EU wants to spend money on it, fine. But I'd prefer if my tax money went toward bombs for Iraq or Saudi Arabia.
With the ready and potentially unanimous backing of the international community, the United States government can bring about such a solution to the existing imbroglio. Demands on both sides should be so patently fair and balanced that at least a majority of citizens in the affected area will respond with approval, and an international force can monitor compliance with agreed peace terms, as was approved for the Sinai region in 1979 following Israel's withdrawal from Egyptian territory.
Oh yeah, that'll work -- not! Does "Marine Barracks Beirut" mean anything to Mr. Carter? Even if it's not Americans, do you you think it will help. Just last week their was condemnation for Dutch peacekeepers who failed miserably to prevent a massacre in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
There are two existing factors that offer success to United States persuasion. One is the legal requirement that American weapons are to be used by Israel only for defensive purposes, a premise certainly being violated in the recent destruction of Jenin and other villages. Richard Nixon imposed this requirement to stop Ariel Sharon and Israel's military advance into Egypt in the 1973 war, and I used the same demand to deter Israeli attacks on Lebanon in 1979. (A full invasion was launched by Ariel Sharon after I left office). The other persuasive factor is approximately $10 million daily in American aid to Israel. President George Bush Sr. threatened this assistance in 1992 to prevent the building of Israeli settlements between Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
Umm...so us bombing the hell out of the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan, by Mr. Carter's definition, was not defensive. Has Carter bought into the EUers view of the big, bad American hegemon? The Israeli attacks were undoubtedly defensive -- they were in response to unabated terrorist attacks coming from those camps. How many Israelis have to die in order for a counterattack to be defensive?
I understand the extreme political sensitivity in America of using persuasion on the Israelis, but it is important to remember that none of the actions toward peace would involve an encroachment on the sovereign territory of Israel. They all involve lands of the Egyptians, Lebanese and Palestinians, as recognized by international law.
The existing situation is tragic and likely to get worse. Normal diplomatic efforts have failed. It is time for the United States, as the sole recognized intermediary, to consider more forceful action for peace. The rest of the world will welcome this leadership.
The problem with America's recent "persuasion" on the Israelis is because it's been the classic "do as I say and not as I do" lecture. What the Israelis have been doing in the Palestinian territories is exactly what America has been doing in Afghanistan. As far as the rest of the world welcoming our leadership -- I'm not going to hold my breath.
The New York Times editorial page leans left. Despite CBS Dan Rather's contention that it's middle of the road, it can't really hide its bias when they run two pieces of inane gibberish by Al Gore and Jimmy Carter -- on the same day! I'm too exhausted to properly dissect them now. Come back for a through browbeating later.
Friday, April 19, 2002
Cartoonist Paul Conrad is challenging Ted Rall for the title of America's Dumbest Cartoonist. Conrad's latest cartoon (found here) likens the Israelis to Osama bin Laden's terrorists. An airliner with the Star of David on its tail heads toward the towers of two mosques.
The lack of moral direction that it takes to suggest that Israelis are terrorists because they are attempting to defend their nation from suicide bombers is amazing. The Israelis didn't start this thing.
The Israelis are in a war similar to ours. Yasser Arafat and Osama bin Laden are brothers in terror. They are cut from the same cloth.
I hope that Conrad's cartoon earns him much of the same condemnation that has been visited on Rall.
*UPDATE* I've had several people suggest that the two towers are not those of mosques, but of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. I've seen several pictures of the church, and it does not have two towers. I guess Conrad's just practicing some artistic license. Whether it's the Church of the Nativity or a mosque -- the cartoon is still disgusting.
Today, New York Times columnist Paul "Line 47" Krugman tries his hand at rhyming and an honest analysis of President Bush's tax policy. He succeeds at one of them.
[T[he Bush administration really, really dislikes sharing information with Congress. Dick Cheney refuses to release the records of his energy task force; Tom Ridge won't testify on homeland security; and last week Thomas Scully defied a subpoena from the Small Business Committee.
Well, every administration has a tendency to want to guard what it feels is its prerogative. Cheney won't release his energy records because they are part of the policy-making function of the executive branch. Some disagree, and it will be settled in court. But can you imagine a member of Congress being asked for a list of every lobbyist they've met with in the past six months and the subject and contents of each meeting and having them willingly disclose it?
As far as Tom Ridge goes, the administration contends that he is an advisor to the president much like National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice. Rice is not required to testify to Congress. Ridge has offered to meet with Democrats in the Senate, but not under oath. Unfortunately it wouldn't be the dog-and-pony show that Democrats want, so they continue to harp for a formal hearing. This isn't a case of the administration withholding information, it's about protecting the ability of presidential advisors to advise the president without having to repeat everything to Congress under oath.
I won't address Scully's action, because I'm not completely familiar with what happened, but I can (and will) make a guess. Democratic senators want to make a spectacle and he doesn't want to be part of it. But he really doesn't have much of a choice -- if what Krugman says is true -- he shouldn't have done it.
I've just spent about 30 minutes looking for a report, any report, of Scully defying a subpoena. The most recent item I can locate about Scully testifying before Congress took place February 14, 2002. There is no transcript up, but it appears as though Scully testified. If someone can point me to a more recent committee hearing or a report of what Krugman is talking about, I'd appreciate it.
The background is the recent surge in health care expenses. During the 1990's the rise of H.M.O.'s put a squeeze on medical bills; now there is nothing left to squeeze. So H.M.O.'s are sharply increasing their payments to health-care providers, and the federal programs overseen by Mr. Scully are under pressure to follow suit. Since these programs cost more than national defense, we're talking about a lot of money here.
Still, if medical care is a priority, which it surely is for the voters, why doesn't the government simply provide the necessary resources? You already know the answer: it's hard to reconcile realistic spending increases with plans for more tax cuts.
I don't begrudge doctors making a good income. With their education and expertise, they deserve it. Krugman suggests that "there's nothing left to squeeze" -- doctors apparently aren't making enough to money to survive. However, their incomes aren't such that they're leaving the business and going into social work or teaching or journalism. Remember, even the poorest doctor is "wealthy" according to Krugman and his ilk.
Krugman's answer to every problem is to spend more money, yet Medicare loses millions each year to fraud. And the government can't spend more money if taxes are cut. Take a look at your paystub again. See that "Medi" line? That's a tax to support Medicare. Bush's tax cut didn't touch that. So much for Medicare funds going to pay for Medicare. It's all one big pot.
Last year the administration claimed that it could easily cut taxes without tapping the Social Security surplus. Those claims were false, but Sept. 11 provided cover: who cares about lockboxes when we're in pursuit of evildoers?
THERE IS NO LOCKBOX!
Got that out of my system.
The truth is that a robust economy is what will help Social Security most in the long run. Jump starting the economy will result in higher tax revenues and, in theory a longer period of solvency. Of course, in wartime all of this is secondary.
True, skeptics have raised a few questions. Given that we face a major new demand on the budget, shouldn't we reconsider a tax cut proposed in more peaceful times? (Instead, the administration wants to make the tax cut permanent.) Don't taxes normally go up in wartime, as a matter of shared sacrifice? And isn't it a little strange, given all the martial rhetoric, that the administration's recent 10-year budget proposal allocated more money to a second round of tax cuts ($665 billion) than it did to new defense spending ($625 billion)?
President George W. Bush has learned the lesson that is father didn't, you can't ignore the economy. A robust economy will provide increased tax revenues, even at lower tax rates (hasn't Krugman heard of the Laffer Curve?). These 10-year numbers are in reality meaningless, and Krugman knows it. When we attack Iraq, the numbers will change. If Saudi Arabia doesn't fall into line, the numbers will change. It's all meaningless.
But as the cartoonist Tom Tomorrow has explained, the answer to all such questions is, "Why do you hate America?" A patriotic public is in no mood to question its leader's policies.
I don't think Krugman hates America. But I've got a hunch that he probably hates Republicans in general and President Bush in particular.
The really amazing thing is that raiding the lockbox wasn't enough. In the name of fighting terrorism the administration has in effect diverted $2 trillion of Social Security surpluses, previously pledged to debt reduction, to cover the revenue losses from tax cuts. But realistic projections now show permanent deficits in the federal budget as a whole. This threatens the administration's story line, which says that now is the time for even more tax cuts.
Note the "realistic projections" comment. Projections which show deficits "as far as the eye can see." are realistic. Others are not. Those projections are also meaningless. They change from year to year. And the latest (in Krugman's opinion) unrealistic deficits show a couple of years of deficits and then back to surpluses.
So there is intense pressure within the administration to dress up the fiscal picture by underestimating future spending — health-care spending in particular. Robert Greenstein of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities writes that the administration's budget "assumes an extraordinarily low rate of growth in Medicare costs." And since it would be hard to justify low projections of future cost growth if current costs are surging, there is also intense pressure to keep actual Medicare payments low, despite rapidly rising costs in the private sector.
And that brings us back to Mr. Scully's defiance. Any health-care professional will tell you that Medicare's payment rates are increasingly inadequate. Many physicians now turn away Medicare patients; and service providers, like the companies that do X-rays at nursing homes, are going out of business. When Mr. Scully discovered that he would have to face some of those service providers, he walked out. You can't blame him (except that he was breaking the law). After all, he's under orders to keep those numbers down.
I don't know what the answer to this problem is. I'd like to see a little more creativity than Krugman's insistence that we just throw more money at the problem.
The real lesson here is that things add up. The administration has been able to push tax cuts that mainly go to the wealthiest few percent of Americans, because the downside seems abstract; the middle class doesn't understand that those cuts will eventually starve programs that it counts on, like Medicare.
But the downside has already begun. There is a direct link between the administration's affluent-friendly tax cuts and the growing crisis of Medicare underfunding; it really is a case of their wealth versus your health.
Now we're back to the same old Krugman-rant. The wealthy got more money back in the tax cut, because they pay more money. The wealthy actually bear a higher percentage of the tax burden now than at any time in our history. The tax system is progressive.
I'm sick of this lie that the wealthy benefit more, because it's not really true. We can (and have) thrown around these numbers before. I'm glad I got my $300 back last year. The fact that somebody else (the rich) got more is a fact of life. Life isn't fair -- if it was I'd pay as much in taxes as Bill Gates. I'm happy I don't.
Oh, and a final note...Krugman did succeed in his little rhyme.
Yesterday the House passed legislation that would make the tax cut passed last year permanent. The marriage penalty and the estate tax are among the items that will die a permanent death, and will not be resurrected in 2011.
Democrats sought to tie the vote to what they view as their most potent electoral issue, the future of Social Security. They said that allocating hundreds of billions of dollars a year to the tax cut in perpetuity would endanger the government's ability to pay Social Security benefits when the vast boomer generation retires.
"The issue is what's going to happen on Social Security," said Representative Richard A. Gephardt, Democrat of Missouri, the minority leader. "Mark my words, it's going to be an issue in the election."
I've said it before, and Gephardt's comment reveals the truth of my earlier assertion that there is no lockbox. When Republicans (or the occasional Democrat) are accused of dipping into the "Social Security Trust Fund," it's one big lie.
Look at your paystub. I got mine yesterday (comparing the gross and the net is just depressing). There's a FICA and a FIT and a bunch of other things. That tax cut changed the amount in the FIT column, not the FICA column. Democrats are talking about the tax cut affecting the FICA -- the only way that can happen is if the money comes from the same pot.
It'd be nice if our elected representatives started talking straight. It's meaningless if the "trust fund" is dipped into now. It's already taking more money than it needs to pay out benefits. Once that dynamic changes, one of two things must happen; taxes will have to be raised or benefits cut. The only other option is to change how the system works -- but many Democrats don't like talking about that.
Thursday, April 18, 2002
Fox News last night has a short item on Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) who led the pledge of allegiance on the House floor yesterday had a problem saying the words "under God." Not that she mangled them. She just didn't say it. According to Brit Hume, her staff said that she had to swallow, and it was just a coincidence that it happened when the words "under God" came up. Well, I rewound the tape and watched closely -- she didn't swallow.
But that's the kind of thing I'd expect from a state whose major newspaper won't use the term "terrorism."
Even criminals need to pay attention in English class.
A former Los Angeles Times employee surrendered to Los Angeles police Monday in connection with the theft of $64,236 from the newspaper's Sept. 11 Disaster Relief Fund.
Michael Childress, 35, a temporary employee hired to process mail and donations to the fund, is scheduled for arraignment today on two counts of theft and three counts of grand theft.
Prosecutors said the thefts were uncovered after several donors complained about grammatical and spelling errors in the thank-you notes they received from The Times. "If this guy had used spell check, he might have gotten away with it," said Jane Robison, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County district attorney's office.
Every English teacher should post this in their class.
Numerous surveys of the media have shown that journalists are overwhelmingly liberal Democrats. Despite this, journalists swear on a stack of Ms. magazines that they don't let their personal biases enter into their reporting. Like former CBS newsman Bernard Goldberg, I think they actually do believe this. The problem is, it's not true.
Today's object lesson is the coverage of a promising medical breakthrough. It seems that researchers in France have managed to cure some sufferers of the "Bubble Boy" Disease. A genetic abnormality results in their immune system being unable to fight off common infections or viruses.
How exactly did scientists do it? Well, there's two contrasting explanations. First, from The Washington Post:
In the procedure, the French researchers took bone marrow cells -- the source of blood stem cells -- from the patients and infected them with a retrovirus carrying the normal gene as a payload. The cells were then grown in large quantities and returned to the boys. They then homed to the bone marrow, and to other tissues, on their own.
So, scientists used bone marrow cells? Why the seeming non sequitur about bone marrow being "the source of blood stem cells?"
From the Associated Press:
To reverse the gene defect, doctors at Necker Hospital in Paris drew bone marrow from the boys. They culled stem cells from the marrow and mixed them with a harmless virus in which a gene that makes the missing protein had been inserted. After the virus infected the bone marrow cells, millions of each boy's cells were injected into his bloodstream.
Aha! They used mature stem cells in order to fix this genetic defect. Why was the Washington Post's explanation so contorted? Maybe because the reporter and the editor believe that only embryonic stem cells can be responsible for this kind of medical miracle. All of the reporting says that mature stem cells don't hold the promise that embryonic stem cells do. Forty Nobel Laureates say it would be a disservice to science if the use of embryonic stem cells was banned. The Post believes this propaganda, and forces itself to ignore the fact that there is promise in adult stem cell technology.
Did anybody notice that in the list of signers of that letter, most were winners in Chemistry or Physiology and Medicine. But there were two winners of the Physics prize -- and one ECONOMICS winner? Who let that guy in there?
Well, this news just reinforces the contention made by National Review online's Michael Fumento and author Wesley J. Smith have been saying for months. I'm opposed to embryonic stem cell research from a moral standpoint. But there is plenty of evidence that embryonic stem cell research has little scientific currency.
Discoveries like those made by the French scientists will hopefully make embryonic stem cell research supporters position untenable. As success after success piles up for adult-stem cell researchers, all humanity benefits.
Wednesday, April 17, 2002
The New York Times' Maureen Dowd has published bits of "e-males" (isn't she clever?) from men who, unlike most of Dowd's friends, are not intimidated by successful intelligent women. It's probably the best column published under her byline in a long time, mainly because she writes so little of it.
Wright Salisbury's missive brought a smile:
[I]n praise of brainy women: Shortly after we were married, my wife tearfully confessed that her I.Q., at 178, was 45 points higher than mine, had been salutatorian of her college class, and was a member of Phi Beta Kappa.
I was shocked, but divorce was out of the question. It has been terrible to live with, but there have been compensations: 1) Our children are a lot smarter . . . 2) She remembers people's names, places we have visited, and learns foreign languages the way I catch colds.
Men, don't fear that cute little genius you have your eye on.
Men and women are different in many ways, but women can be just as shallow as men when it comes to relationships, as Dowd's letter-writers point out.
"They want to find somebody who is as much or MORE: good looking, socially skilled and well-off," writes Mike "not Mormon" Dropkin of Sugarhouse, Utah. "What do successful men want? Typically, a good-looking women who is kind."
Steven Greenfield agrees: "I find that most successful women have little respect for a man who does not out-earn them. I am all too frequently made to feel as though I am the sum total of my résumé, which is embarrassingly slim in their eyes."
I haven't necessarily encountered this feminist elitism, but it certainly doesn't surprise me.
Relationships require time, effort and dedication. Many of these women (and many men) may find themselves successful and unmarried in their 40s because they failed to invest their time or effort in other people. The single-minded pursuit of financial gain and success can affect personal relationships. If you haven't figured that out -- you've got bigger issues.