Thursday, March 25, 2004

I've seem a few people link to this Clarke interview, but I haven't seen anyone highlight this particular segment:

Because one of the things that surprises a lot of the public, I think, is that immediately after Sept. 11, the administration knew exactly who had done it. Was that why?

No. On the day of Sept. 11, then the day or two following, we had a very open mind. CIA and FBI were asked, "See if it's Hezbollah. See if it's Hamas. Don't assume it's Al Qaeda. Don't just assume it's Al Qaeda." Frankly, there was absolutely not a shred of evidence that it was anybody else. The evidence that it was Al Qaeda began just to be massive within days after the attack.

So Iraq wasn't the only potential connection that he was asked to look into in the days immediately following 9/11. Which is as it should be, of course.

UPDATE: It has just occurred to me that it is also passing strange that, after the way the meeting with Bush on 9/11 was supposed to have gone (as he now tells it, at least), he didn't also mention being asked to look into an Iraqi connection.
Richard Clarke, a timeline:

2002 When discussing his 9/11/01 meeting with Bush: "I will always remember the courage, determination, calm, and leadership you demonstrated on September 11th."

2003 When writing of the episode in his book:

The Bush in these pages sounds more ruminative than intimidating: "I know you have a lot to do and all, but I want you, as soon as you can, to go back over everything, everything. See if Saddam did this. See if he's linked in any way." When Clarke responds by saying that "al-Qaeda did this," Bush says, "I know, I know, but see if Saddam was involved. Just look. I want to know any shred....." Again Clarke protests, after which Bush says "testily," "Look into Iraq, Saddam."

2004 When doing interviews:

Here's how Clarke recounted the meeting on 60 Minutes: "The President dragged me into a room with a couple of other people, shut the door and said, 'I want you to find whether Iraq did this'.....the entire conversation left me in absolutely no doubt that George Bush wanted me to come back with a report that said, 'Iraq did this.'" After Clarke protested that "there's no connection," Bush came back to him and said "Iraq, Saddam ? find out if there's a connection." Clarke says Bush made the point "in a very intimidating way."

and the following day:

"What happened was the President, with his finger in my face, saying, 'Iraq, a memo on Iraq and al-Qaeda, a memo on Iraq and the attacks.' Very vigorous, very intimidating."

Damn, this is like the story of the fish that got away! At this rate, in another couple of days that minnow is going to sound like Moby Dick.

Monday, March 22, 2004

John Kerry is toast. I seriously don't believe that he will still be running by the end of April. Even if he wants to continue, I believe he will be forced out. The recent revelations about his activities in the early 1970's are that serious. Debating the assassination of US Senators? Incredible.

That he apparently argued and voted against it is little defense. He had a duty as a citizen, to say nothing of being a naval officer or future office holder to report his fellow travellers. Of course, he can't even make that defense because he has already claimed that "he wasn't there", though in the face of pretty concrete evidence that he was, he has had to fall back on just not having any recollection of being there.

Obviously it is inconceivable (and unlike Wallace Shawn's character in The Princess Bride, I do know what that word means) that Kerry would just "forget" debating whether or not to attempt assassinations of American leaders. In time of war. Especially as that debate seems to have been the impetus behind his quitting the VVAW.

Oh, and did I mention that the originator of the plot says that he has recently accepted an offer to work for the Kerry campaign in Florida?

UPDATE: I think that I may have been a little too hasty. I can see Kerry surviving this, though (if it is ever actually reported widely instead of being pointedly ignored) it will damage him.

I can envision this being a possible scenario: The VVAW was composed of a bunch of fringe types, one of which was Camil. He came up with his plan, presented it, and was laughed out of the room. Kerry was already realizing that the group probably wasn't very good for his long term future, and listening to some hair-brained scheme for killing senators was the final straw. He took off to distance himself, but didn't do anything about the "Pheonix Project" because he didn't take it seriously. Looking back on this episode much later with likely Presidential aspirations, Kerry again realizes what a political handgrenade this could be, and again tries to distance himself - this time completely - by claiming that he wasn't there, and that he even resigned a convenient two days prior to the meeting.
Interesting analysis of the Spanish vote, by Iain Murray:

To take Spain first, the shift in power to the Socialist Party was entirely due to an increased turnout of voters. In 2000, about 21.5 million people voted in the Spanish elections. In 2004, 2.5 million more voted. The Socialist vote increased by 3 million, while the Conservative vote dropped by only 700,000. This was no massive swing away from the Partido Popular (PP) to the Socialists, but an effect of a small percentage of the population feeling motivated to vote when otherwise they would have not. In fact, it seems likely that the PP's vote actually firmed up, given that opinion polls before the Madrid bombings had the Socialists gaining on the PP even without the extra votes. By my calculations, on a turnout equivalent to 2000, the PP would have received about 300,000 fewer votes than it did.

Close to 40 percent of the Spanish people voted for the PP despite the attacks, despite the accusations of lies and despite the widespread unhappiness with Prime Minister Aznar's decisions on Iraq (90 percent opposition in some polls). It would be a clear mistake to say that the 43 percent of Spaniards who voted for the Socialist Party did so only because they wished Spain to leave the coalition of the willing and withdraw their troops from Iraq. In fact, it would not surprise me if polls found that more Spaniards now supported the Aznar stance on Iraq than previously, despite the election results.

It is clear, therefore, that the Spanish elections hinged on the feelings of those 3 million extra voters, less than a tenth of the voting population. They were, it appears, overwhelmingly young, something that in Europe at least invariably favors left-leaning parties. It seems likely that the PP's unwise move to pin the blame for the bombings on Basque separatist terrorists ETA before the evidence was in contributed to a feeling among this group that it had been lied to. The group's vengeance was terrible for Spain and the war on terror, but its effect was disproportionate.
Great bumper sticker material from The Edge of England's Sword:

I voted for John Kerry, before I voted against him.
Here is a fascinating article on a way to possibly revive the UN - and bring about a UN worth having, or perhaps the beginnings of it's successor:

Imagine a better Washington. Imagine a conservative Republican administration working hand in glove with liberal congressional Democrats on a foreign-policy initiative designed to strengthen the United Nations while simultaneously increasing America's clout there. Imagine both parties and both branches bringing this initiative to fruition smoothly and unfussily, during an election year. Say, this year. Say, right now.

Pinch yourself. It is happening.
Self Parody Alert - When I read Steyn's hilarious send up of this Kerry statement, I thought he HAD to be making it all up. Nope:

Do you have any pets that have made an impact on you personally?

I have always had pets in my life and there are a few that I remember very fondly.
When I was serving on a swiftboat in Vietnam, my crewmates and I had a dog we called
VC. We all took care of him, and he stayed with us and loved riding on the swiftboat
deck. I think he provided all of us with a link to home and a few moments of peace and
tranquility during a dangerous time. One day as our swiftboat was heading up a river, a
mine exploded hard under our boat. After picking ourselves up, we discovered VC was
MIA. Several minutes of frantic search followed after which we thought we'd lost him.
We were relieved when another boat called asking if we were missing a dog. It turns out
VC was catapulted from the deck of our boat and landed confused, but unhurt, on the
deck of another boat in our patrol.

Sunday, March 21, 2004

Going back to the suggestion from Larry Sabato that Bush return contributions to people with the instruction that they be instead used to hire people, let's turn that around. Should Kerry contact his supporters and tell them to send him money instead of hiring people?
The news that people are dropping out of the labor force is being spun as obviously a bad thing, but I have to disagree strongly.

I myself am someone who left my last employer in 2002, and I am officially unemployed (and not seeking work) to this day. My wife likewise left the labor force in 1999, never to return. We must be huring, right? On welfare, living on our savings, begging from relatives, etc.? No, actually we started a business in 2000. And we are doing extremely well, thank you very much.

In addition, it has been obvious for years (at least to us as new (in 1999) parents) that it is again becoming common for women to stay home with their children. Time magazine just made it official:

So why is it that women having the financial freedom to quit work to spend time with their children is a bad thing? Why is dropping out of the "official" work force to start your own business a bad thing? I submit that both are in fact very good things, and that the number of people in both these categories has been growing. I further believe that this growth has significantly accellerated during the last few years.

PS If anyone is interested, we are in business as E-retailers, and there are thousands upon thousands upon thousands of us selling just about anything you can think of. This type of business just didn't exist 10 years ago. Relatively easy entry into this type of business only became a reality roughly 5 years ago. Yet in our own tiny corner of the this new marketplace, there are easily thirty or forty similar competing small companies that I know of, and likely at least as many more that I am unaware of. (While we did open a brick-and-mortar location nearly two years ago, the internet still acounts for the vast, vast majority of our sales.)
Musil talks about his surprise at Larry Sabato's comments regarding Bush and his contributors:

Until tonight I had thought fairly well of Larry Sabato. But tonight I actually saw and heard him on Fox News state with a completely straight face and in apparent sincerity that the President could help his re-election chances by returning some of his campaign contributions to the donors with the stipulation that the donor use the returned money to create a few new jobs.

I repeat: With a completely straight face and in apparent sincerity.

And everything else he had to say - which wasn't that much - reached about that depth.

That really doesn't surprise me, sad to say. I've been on his E-mail list for over a year, and while I believe that he actually does attempt to be bias-free, he is not. Every E-mail I've gotten for the last month or more has mentioned the allegedly "dismal" job picture. Here is the latest:

Not so for George W. Bush's nadir. Bush's ratings have come crashing down to earth, headed for basement level, in the first quarter of 2004. The President is at the nadir of his administration, viewed from the perspective of public popularity. Bush-bashing by all the Democrats and the press has taken a toll, as has the dismal jobs picture. Do you think the President ever daydreams about deriving a little pleasure from the pain of consistent mis-predictions by his team, perhaps by calling all his economic advisers into the Oval Office and firing them one by one? He could go to the Rose Garden and announce he had outsourced their jobs--say, to Ohio. His popularity would soar, at least briefly, and who could blame him for banishing these dismal scientists whose forecasting records are worse than the most inaccurate meteorologists?

If 5.6% unemployment is "dismal", then what would he term the unemployment situation in Germany, or France, or even that which existed in the US under Jimmy Carter?

In fact, if you go to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, you find that a 5.6% unemployment rate is actually EQUAL to the MEDIAN rate in the US from 1990. Who knew that average was "dismal"? Only when a Republican is President.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Brilliant post and analysis of a recent Kerry speech by Bill Hobbs:

For John Kerry, our "first responders" in the War on Terror are the people who respond to an attack with firehoses, bulldozers and cadaver dogs. For President George Bush, our "first responders" are the 101st Airborne, the Third Infantry Division, the Navy and the Air Force. They get no mention in Kerry's self-described "Agenda to Support Front Lines in America's War on Terror," which contains not a single single word about offense.

That, in brief, is the stark choice America faces in November. Do we keep the coach who is playing offense in the War on Terror, taking the battle to where the enemy lives and breeds, smashing their stronghold in Afghanistan, setting a trap for them in Iraq, and confronting Islamist terrorists by planting that which they loathe the most - freedom and democracy for Muslims - in the heart of their territory. Or do we hire a new coach who will switch to defense and focus on preparing the firefighters and police and "first responders' to douse the flames and dig the bodies from under the rubble of the next attack?

Monday, March 15, 2004

One final Kerry bash. For today, at least. Is anyone else tired of Kerry, when faced with a question for which he doesn't have an answer, bringing up an only tangentially related Bush issue, and saying "I welcome that debate"?

Either answer the damn question or don't.
And what's with Kerry's new idiocy regarding his truly stupid comment about having the support of foreign leaders?

If it's "None of our business", then why did he mention it in the first place?

I actually believe that he is telling the truth in one respect here. I believe that he has had conversations with foreign leaders who have expressed the hope that he is elected President. I also believe that some of these leaders are from European countries. These aren't "imaginary" freinds, as someone snarkily put it a few days ago.

However, one of the most important implications of this gaffe has been ignored, as far as I can tell.

Kerry clearly now understands that these conversations shouldn't be mentioned in public. Anyone in his position should have known this BEFORE he made the comments. So is he so clueless that he didn't understand the obvious until he had his nose rubbed in it, or is he just unable to control his mouth?

Kerry has more than enough faults without adding the inability to keep private information private to the laundry list.
Kerry has been proving himself not-ready-for-Prime-Time on a daily basis for months, but it looks like it's finally catching up to him. Lying about his votes on Cuba policy is bad. Is he so "nuanced" that he really thought he voted for it? I guess if you keep flip flopping, it's hard to keep your lies... er... positions straight.

Or could he have begun to rely so heavily on the press to cover up his gaffes that he just thought he could get away with it? I think his free pass might have just expired.

UPDATE: I may have been wrong about that free pass, at least in some quarters. Eugene Volokh reports that neither the NY Times nor the Washington Post bothered to recount one of Kerry's other recent faux pas, the one regarding his "none of our business" comment

Question: If a candidate says something incredibly stupid, but the statement isn't reported, did he really say it?

Luckily, with the internet and other alternatives (Fox) to the previously existing left leaning big-media stranglehold, that question is increasingly becoming moot.
On Joanne Jacobs' blog, they are discussing Shakespeare, and whether to teach the original versus teaching a "translation". I commented, and was so pleased with my turn of phrase that I had to post it here too:

Why read a clunky copy when with a little work you can read the dazzling original? It's like prefering a piece of glass to a diamond because the glass is easier to cut.
I was disgusted by the Spanish vote, as much of the blogosphere apparently was. After sleeping on it though, I am much more understanding.

According to most polls I have heard of, huge majorities of the Spanish were against being involved in the Iraqi War. That the Popular Party was still cruising to a victory Sunday reveals that the Spanish electorate simply didn't think the issue was as important as others. The Madrid bombing made them rethink their priorities, just as 9/11 did to us.

Their default position was that the Popular Party was on the wrong side of the issue, and this, more than anything, drove the result I believe. If you start from faulty premises, you are unlikely to arrive at a good answer. Perhaps having the vote still as close as it was is actually a good sign.
Andrew Sullivan launches a (for once) undeserved attack on Derbyshire:

It is the oldest, most sickening piece of bigotry around, used against Jews in one era just as it is now used against homosexuals. There is no more logical connection between homosexuality and pedophilia than heterosexuality and pedophilia, or heterosexuality and rape. Look, there are legitimate public policy disagreements about how we treat homosexuals in society. But linking gays with child-molesters, in this way, and asserting it as a matter of faith, immune to any argumentation, is simply bigotry.

Derbyshire's argument? That the Boyscouts attract "pederasts". I'm sorry, but what is so hard to understand here?

Think about it another way: Suppose you were a member of NAMBLA. Would you be interested in joining the Boy Scouts as a troop leader? Of course you would!

The Girl Scouts don't allow men to run their troops, and for good reason. Think of how interested a hetro child molester would be in gaining access to young girls, and in a position of trust and authority to boot. Just look at how frequently school teachers are arrested for molesting or attempting to molest their charges. And this is in a classroom setting, after jumping through years of hoops.

This issue has nothing to do with homosexuality per se. Homosexual men shouldn't have easy access to pubescent boys, just as hetrosexual men shouldn't have access to girls.

To put it another way, what percentage of Catholic priests are homosexual? What percentage of those molested boys? Is this an incredibly high number of "pederasts" for the number of homosexual priests? I happen to believe that it is, and I would assume that Sullivan would agree with me here. So what could account for this unusual percentage? Self-selection, of course.

This is the same problem that the Scouts have. If they do allow gay men to become troop leaders, an uncharacteristically high percentage of applicants will be child molesters. While forbidding homosexual men from joining will undoubtedly prevent many fine, upstanding men from providing a great service to today's Scouts, it will also save many of these children from being abused. While claims that something is "For the Children!" usually ring flat to me, in this instance it is far better to be safe than sorry.

UPDATE I have re-read what Derbyshire said, and I withdraw my complaint. Where he went over the line was in the aside, "(And before anyone e-mails in to tell me that homosexuality and pederasty are utterly different things, not related to each other in any way, shape or form whatsoever: I DON'T BELIEVE YOU.)"

I still stand by my opinion that gay men should not be accepted to become boy scout leaders.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Pejman has an insightful post up with a great quote from an Iraqi blogger:

Every few months we hear of a new "message" from Al Qaeda and analysts ponder what it portends. By now surely it is clear that Al Qaeda can produce videotapes but not terrorism. In fact, their poorly produced tapes, threatening spectacular attacks, are becoming a joke, much like Saddam Hussein's promises to fight "the mother of all battles."

In political terms they have fared even worse. Support for violent Islam is waning in almost all major Muslim countries. Discussions from Libya to Saudi Arabia are all about liberalization. Ever since September 11, when the spotlight has been directed on these societies and their dysfunctions laid bare to the world, it is the hard-liners who are in retreat and the moderates on the rise. This does not mean that there will be rapid reform anywhere—there are many obstacles to progress—but it does suggest that the moderates are not running scared anymore

(Link via Glenn Reynolds.) None of this, of course, would have been the case if we followed John Kerry's advice and made the fight against terrorism "primarily an intelligence and law enforcement operation." A point that deserves to be made over and over in this campaign.

Monday, March 08, 2004

And via Instapundit, a column from Lee Harris that is just silly. This excerpt perhaps best describes his argument:

our most urgent question today is: What should we as a nation do with our collective memory from that day?

Increasingly the answer that is being given to this question by liberal Democrats is simple, Repress it. Push it out of our mind. Pretend that it never happened; or if you absolutely must refer to 9/11, pretend it was something along the lines of an earthquake or a freakish tidal wave -- a natural disaster without the slightest political implications. A tragedy, of course, but something we should all put behind us and move on.

I obviously don't have much in common with today's Democrats (or, really, the last century's Democrats), but let's stick to the facts. The Democrats do poorly enough when you confront their positions and statements with the real facts that you don't have to make things up.

All you have to do to falsify his column is look at recent Kerry speeches. This one from yesterday will do:

Sen. John F. Kerry, intensifying the election fight over terrorism and national security, accused President Bush on Sunday of "stonewalling" for political reasons separate investigations into the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and prewar intelligence on Iraq.

The Massachusetts Democrat echoed Bush's promise to make Sept. 11 a top election issue and, for the second time in the young general election campaign, portrayed the president as playing politics with the deadliest attack on U.S. soil since Pearl Harbor.

"I think one of the most critical questions in front of the country is with respect to 9/11, why is this administration stonewalling and resisting the investigation into why we had the greatest security failure in the history of our country and why is he also resisting having an immediate investigation into the security failure with respect to the intelligence in Iraq," Kerry told reporters at Tougaloo College in Jackson, Miss.

Does that sound like the Democrats are "repressing the memory" of 9/11? Pretending "it never happened"? Or, most idiotically, treating it as "a natural disaster without the slightest political implications"? Hello! The Democratic nominee is campaigning on it! Is that making it political enough for you?

Harris' column might have made sense in 2002, but it doesn't make any in 2004. While Kerry has numerous faults, one thing he is not doing is running away from this issue. Waffling, flip-flopping, distorting, and more, yes. Running away, no. It is up to Bush to counter Kerry effectively. While it may be difficult with today's press, he should be able to do it.

PS When exactly did Kerry start being refered to as "John F Kerry"? I knew that he liked to use the initials, but I didn't know that he was now using the pretentious middle inial now too. Or is it something that the WaPo reporter decided to use on his own.
Donald Sensing links to this report about the Pentagon bypassing the news media:

The U.S. military will launch its own news service in Iraq and Afghanistan to send military video, text and photos directly to the Internet or news outlets.

The $6.3 million project, expected to begin operating in April, is one of the largest military public affairs projects in recent memory, and is intended to allow small media outlets in the United States and elsewhere to bypass what the Pentagon views as an increasingly combative press corps.

U.S. officials have complained that Iraq-based media focuses on catastrophic events like car bombs and soldiers' deaths, while giving short shrift to U.S. rebuilding efforts.

I actually think that this is a terrible idea. Unfortunately, it may be the best alternative to the present system, with it's outrageously blatant biases, in the short term at least. It's a real shame that the news media has created the circumstances where this move could actually be an improvement.

Friday, March 05, 2004

Instapundit links to an AP poll showing Nader with 6% support. CRJ thinks that it is way off due to a biased question, with Nader being blessed by being called "independent".

I agree that the poll is wrong, but I disagree completely on the reason why. It has nothing to do with a misleading question or biased polling or the magic word "independent". It is wrong for much the same reason that all the polls last year had Dean doing so well.

In 2003, people didn't have much information to go on, but a big number of people knew they didn't want Bush. Dean was getting a lot of press as the "Anti-Bush", so he got their "vote" in those polls. When the time came to cast a REAL vote in the primaries, the votes were more informed. Plus, this was also the time to vote for a particular candidate instead of just against Bush.

Now, we have a number of people who aren't really happy with either Bush, or Kerry. This leaves them with "not decided" and Nader. The poll is meaningless, so they register a "protest vote" for Nader. The poll result doesn't reflect Nader support, it just reflects deep unhappiness with both the major candidates in a small percentage (~5%) of their sample.

Thursday, March 04, 2004

On Oxblog, David Adesnik is examining a national security speech that Kerry made recently. On the whole, the critique is pretty good. For once, Kerry actually sounds serious about the issues, at least in a couple of spots. A sign the primary is over, I guess.

There is really only one portion that I take exception with, but I think that it is an important one. He writes:

Kerry returns to stronger ground with his accusation that our

Troops are going into harm's way without the weapons and equipment they depend on to do their jobs safely. National Guard helicopters are flying missions in dangerous territory without the best available ground-fire protection systems. Un-armored Humvees are falling victim to road-side bombs and small-arms fire.

And families across America have had to collect funds from their neighbors to buy body armor for their loved ones in uniform because George Bush failed to provide it.

Again, this is the kind of accusation that Kerry can only level because of his war record. While I vaguely recall hearing that the body armor situation had been dealt with, this sort of oversight on Bush's part is exactly what Kerry is in a position to take advantage of.

I'm at a loss to explain his perception that "only" Kerry could make this accusation, by virtue of his service in Viet Nam. First off, why couldn't Edwards have made it? It seems to me that this criticism is either valid or is not, and the background of the person making it would ususally be irrelevant. Does service in the Navy 30+ years ago make Kerry some kind of an expert in today's body armor, Humvees, or helicopters? I just don't see it.

That said, I submit that Kerry's background DOES in fact make a difference in how much credence the charge should be given. However, the background I refer to makes him almost uniquely UNQUALIFIED to make any accusations against Bush, legitimate or not, regarding any possible deficiencies in military equipment. Kerry does, after all, have a long record of campaigning and/or voting AGAINST new military systems, equipment, and funding. If all of the votes had gone his way on those bills, what would our troops be left to fight with? Hueys and WWII style jeeps? After all, in 1984 he campaigned on eliminating the Apache helicopter, and cutting funding on the Bradley, among a host of other weapons systems like the Patriot Missile sytem, the M1 Abrams tank, F-15s, F-16s, the B-1, the B-2 and many more.

He was still trying to make significant cuts to the military in 1993. Granted that this was post-Cold War, and George HW Bush and everyone else was cutting the military as part of the "peace dividend" that helped fuel the 90's boom. However, this was also after major cuts had already been enacted, and is just part and parcel of his 20 year record.

He was still trying to cut military funding in 1996.

While he now says that he learned better by 1997, is that a true change in position, or is it just more opportunism? In any event, the consequences of those votes, if they had succeeded, would certainly be far deadlier to our troops than any of the things that Kerry is nitpicking at in the present.

PS Most of the research for this post was actually done by QandO here.

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Anyone who may be curious about the deficits the CBO is listing for Medicare as opposed to the more commonly referred to surpluses should visit here. A short excerpt:

"The difference between the income and expenditures credited to the trust funds of the Social Security and Medicare programs, the nation's two largest social insurance programs, is often viewed as a measure of the impact that those programs have on the financial condition of the federal government. Under the Congressional Budget Office's latest budget projections for the next 10 years, those trust funds are estimated to run sizable surpluses. However, those surpluses reflect more than an excess of dedicated revenues over spending. A substantial portion results from internal transfers between Treasury accounts--credits from the general fund of the Treasury to the trust funds. Thus, although the trust fund surpluses may accurately reflect the programs' spending authority, using them to gauge the programs' budgetary impact distorts their net effects.

That distortion, which is large, obscures the growing strains that the programs are placing on the government's finances. When the intragovernmental transfers are excluded, instead of running a combined surplus of $3.3 trillion over the next 10 years, the two programs are expected to run a deficit of $96 billion. Similarly, from 2003 to 2026, instead of running a cumulative surplus totaling $6.5 trillion, as estimated by the Social Security and Medicare trustees, the programs would run a cumulative deficit totaling $6.6 trillion.

Expressed as a percentage of the nation's gross domestic product, spending for the programs under the trustees' projections would rise from 6.7 percent today to 12.1 percent in 2040, while revenues for the programs would hover around 7 percent. Trust fund accounting, which by law includes intragovernmental transfers, masks much of that widening gap and thus the growing amount of resources that may have to be drawn from the economy to cover the programs' expenditures. "
Now let's get back to Krugman's narative on Greenspan's clearly diabolical plan to screw the poor and middle class and give their money to the well off. It was apparently amazingly well thought out, and unfolded over a span of 20 years. Yes, twenty years. Boy, I thought only the "illuminati" were so far-sighted. (BTW, if you don't know who the illuminati are (or is it the luminati?), you really don't want to know - tinfoil hat time. The people who talk about them make Oliver Stone almost seem rational in comparison.)

What's quite interesting is, though Krugman talks of the huge surplus in SS, he somehow neglects to mention Medicare's huge deficit. However, if you look at SS and Medicare combined, while there is still a surplus, it is minor. According to the CBO, revenues for them combined amounted to 7.0% of GDP in 2002, while outlays for the two programs amounted to ... drumroll ... 6.9% of GDP. The Medicare deficit nearly offsets the Social Security surplus!

Given Krugman's history of intentional distortions, does it surpise anyone that, after ommitting any mention of Medicare when discussing the Social Security surplus, he does NOT forget to mention it as a Bush "target" for "squeezing spending". Did you get that? Something like six months after Bush passes a huge new increase in Medicare spending, Krugman has the incredible gaul to talk of Bush trying to "squeeze" Medicare spending! I wish!

And Krugman wants to write about Greenspan's alleged "chutzpah"? Amazing.

If the Greenspan Commission's recommendations (or something similar) hadn't been followed, these programs would be in the red today. Some conspiracy!

BTW, while the official title was The Greenspan Commission on Social Security Reform, and didn't specifically mention Medicare, from their recommendations it is clear that their proposals were concerned with, and dealt with both:

"The major reasons for this proposal are:

(1) Americans are living longer.

(2) Older workers will be in a greater demand in future years.

(3) The disability benefits program can be improved to provide cash benefits and Medicare to those between age 62 and the higher normal retirement age who, for reasons of health, are unable to continue working.

(4) Because the ratio of workers to beneficiaries is projected to decline after the turn of the century, younger generations are expected to pay significantly increased taxes to support the system in the 21st century. An increase in the normal retirement age will lessen the increase.

(5) Given sufficient notice, coming generations of beneficiaries can adjust to a later retirement age just as earlier generations adjusted to age 65."

One final thing. Look at the first and final items above. They were already talking about reducing benefits (increasing the retirement age) as Americans continued to grow older into this new millineum. Their plan at the time - out in the open, all the way back in 1983 - was to gradually increase the retirement age from 62 in 2000 to 66 in 2015. Some bait and switch!
From the CBO, another major variable that would have to be estimated far into the future, any changes in real benefits:

This shows their estimates for changes from now until 2075.

More interesting information from the same location regarding the estimates for death rates:

"Life expectancy for people currently age 65 is estimated to be 83 years. In 2035, it is estimated to be 85 years, and in 2075, 87 years. "

So, for people who actually live long enough to receive benefits, they currently expect them to, on average, collect them for 18 years. They only expect this figure to grow by TWO YEARS over the next 31 years, and by a mere FOUR years over the next 71. I'm sorry, but that is insane. With so many exciting new medical fields in their infancy, and so many prospective wonder drugs in trials right now, and so many new insights into the human body opening up, and they seriously think this (not to mention the inevitable advances that aren't even contemplated yet) is only going to add a measley four years to life expectancy??

I knew they were lowballing it, buy I had no idea how absurd the numbers were.
How people who, from their accomplishments, HAVE to be extremely intelligent can yet write monumentally stupid things - especially within their area of expertise - has always puzzled me. Strangely enough, I have noticed this with far more frequency from the Left, though those on the Right certainly make a solid effort to hold up their end on occassion. In general, I would say that the more partisan and less temperate someone is, the more likely they are to expose themselves to well-earned ridicule.

And what widely read person - with the credentials to make you believe he MUST be intelligent - is more partisan and intemperate these days than Paul Krugman?

He wrote in today's column:

"the Social Security system is currently taking in much more money than it spends. Thanks to those surpluses, the program is fully financed at least through 2042."

Um, let me put this gently - What the HELL is he talking about? Social Security is "fully financed" to 2042"??? Is that in that lockbox that Gore was droning on about in 2000? Where exactly is that kept? Sorry Paul, but that money is SPENT. I giant stackfull of IOUs doesn't really count. Where exactly is the money for those going to come from?

As a 36 year old, I've known for half a lifetime that I would never see any of "my" "retirement funds". Tens of thousands of dollars now, not including any potential appreciation.

This also reminds me of yet another of my pet peeves - supposedly intelligent people who seemingly believe that these types of economic projections, DECADES into the future, are even somewhat accurate. What happens to this projection as cancer is by and large cured over the next 10 years? What happens when the causes of heart attacks and other serious ailments are discovered and countered? What happens when the effects of aging are better understood and we possibly begin to learn to halt and/or reverse them?

It seems to me that with average lifespans set to increase by 10, 20 or more years within the forseeable future, SS as we know it is about to be in a serious cash crunch, and a hell of a lot sooner than 2042 too. And let's not forget the other hidden estimates that had to have gone into whatever figure Krugman is relying on here:

1. Birthrates over the next several decades. How much confidence should we put into this guestimate?
2. Economic growth, also over several decades. How accurate were such estimates from the early 70's? What would someone have estimated the future to hold in the midst of Reagan's recession? Hell, what were people estimating for the future just at the end of Clinton's term?
3. Unemployment rates. SS taxes are only collected from people who work, after all.
4. Average retirement ages.
5. Future changes to the income level caps on SS taxation, and the timing thereof
6. Future changes to payout amounts and possible changes with regard to eligibility (means testing, raise in age to begin receiving it)

I'm sure there are others, but these are the most important ones. So how much uncertaincy is there in that estimate that Krugman is throwing around as a fact? Enough to more properly term it a wild assed guess.

PS You know, I just realized how we could solve the Social Security ponzi scheme problems AND our budget deficits in one fell swoop: Take the money out of wherever Krugman says they've stashed it for this "fully financed" program and have our Senators invest it. Just think what the roughly 22% compound interest could fund within only a couple of years! Why, we could soon eliminate taxes entirely and just run the government off of the nation's investment income.
Instapundit wonders if Bush just lost the election due to the Senate passage of gun control legislation.

He then seems to think better of it, and thinks that it will probably die without ever getting to Bush's desk. I also think that is the most likely scenario. It would seem to me that this turn of events will work pretty well in Bush's favor. With Kerry (and Edwards) making rare appearances at their actual jobs, expressly to vote FOR gun control, this will be a strong motivator for NRA members and other 2nd Amendment supporters to vote for Bush and therefore against Kerry (or Edwards). Contrast this with Bush, who probably never has to use the veto here, and so he antagonizes no one.

It simply seems that there are more people who support a strong 2nd Ammendment than there are who want to water it down even further, and they are also more likely to be a "one issue voter" and/or feel more strongly about it.

The only way I can see for this to hurt Bush is if it passes both houses and he actually signs the thing.
John "Cut and Run" Kerry. I like it.

Monday, March 01, 2004

Hmm, Andrew Sullivan is now running the good news. Only hours after I E-mailed him a link to my peice below, and referencing the same site as I did. It must just be a case of "great minds" thinking alike.

Well, link or no link, it's good that the news is getting some exposure.