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“Sorry about that. Didn't mean to dredge this back up...”
“By Charlotte Denny, The Guardian
The world's largest Baptist university was both an appropriate and unfortunate location for the Bush administration to pick for this week's summit on the US economy. To his detractors, the choice of Baylor University in Waco, Texas - half an hour's drive from President Bush's Crawford ranch - reinforces the image of a president too lazy to stray far from his holiday home even for a serious issue such as the economic situation.
But the relentlessly upbeat message from the summit suited Baylor's evangelical surroundings. Invitations to Tuesday's gathering were limited to true believers who spent the day energetically praising the administration's handling of the economy.
Van Eure, owner of the Angus Barn restaurant in Raleigh, North Carolina - one of the "ordinary Americans" invited to the summit - told the president she backed elimination of inheritance taxes, a favourite White House policy. "I'm just honoured to be sitting next to one of my heroes," Ms Eure said.
President Bush may have received a warm response in Waco, but he is in danger of going from hero to zero in the eyes of middle America. As their pension savings vanish amid revelations of corporate corruption, workers and investors are becoming increasingly pessimistic about the economic outlook.
Their gloom is shared by Wall Street, where stock prices have fallen by a third since the dotcom bubble burst in March 2000, and the dollar has lost some of its shine. Economists are warning that the world's largest economy is in danger of a double-dip recession.
Last month, the commerce department published revised estimates for growth that rewrote recent economic history. Not only was the 2001 recession deeper and longer than first thought, but America's much vaunted productivity miracle has largely evaporated in the revisions.
Hopes that the blistering pace of growth in the first three months of the year were a sign the economy had shrugged off last year's downturn proved illusory. Most of the rebound was a temporary boost from the turnaround in the inventory cycle. Growth slowed dramatically in the second quarter, with output rising by just 0.3%.
The lukewarm recovery has so far failed to create jobs, adding to fears that consumer spending may falter. Battered by falling markets and the corporate scandals, consumer confidence fell last month to its lowest point since the aftermath of last September's terrorist attacks.
Economists say the willingness of households to keep spending will be crucial to preventing the economy from sliding back into recession. With businesses still writing off billions of dollars of wasted investment during the dotcom boom, consumer spending is the only factor keeping the economy above water.
President Bush's economic team had few serious remedies to offer this week. The summit seems to have been a stunt designed by political advisers for maximum impact on prime-time television, reinforcing the perception that Bush's economic officials are a second-rate bunch without much clout in the White House.
Their proposals - government-backed terrorism insurance, domestic energy exploration and abolition of the estate tax - failed to reassure a market worried about far larger issues such as re-emergence of the federal deficit and America's ballooning trade gap.
Thanks to last year's $1.3 trillion tax giveaway, most of which went to the richest 10% of the population, the White House cannot afford further fiscal easing to help kick-start growth. Meanwhile, foreign investors are pulling out of Wall Street and Main Street, putting downward pressure on the dollar.
As the hand-picked audience assembled in Waco to hear US treasury secretary Paul O'Neill explain how the president's economic agenda would help "each American own part of the American dream", the US Federal Reserve's open markets committee was meeting. Banal slogans were not on the agenda; the Fed's top minds were considering whether the US economy is about to follow the same path as Japan.
The world's second-largest economy has been trapped in a deflationary spiral since the collapse of its property market 10 years ago. Policymakers at the Fed are worried that the dotcom implosion could cause a similar bout of deflation in the US.
Falling prices might sound like a central banker's dream but in fact deflation is far more damaging and harder to control than inflation. With prices always falling, there is no incentive for consumers to go out and spend - goods will be cheaper next week. The entire economy suffers the equivalent of a bout of negative equity. Anybody with outstanding loans is in trouble, because the nominal value of their borrowing stays the same.
Prices in America are still rising but at their slowest rate in 40 years and the Fed takes the threat of deflation very seriously. A paper by senior Fed economists published last month warns that bouts of deflation can surprise forecasters.
"The failure of economists and financial markets to forecast Japan's deflationary slump in the early 1990s poses a cautionary note for policymakers in similar circumstances: deflation can be very difficult to predict in advance. In consequence, as interest rates and inflation rates move closer to zero, monetary policy perhaps should respond not only to baseline forecasts of future activity and prices, but also to the special downside risk - in particular, the possibility of deflation - to those forecasts as well."
In other words, better to cut rates and risk a little extra inflation than let the economy slide into deflation.
The lesson, they conclude, is that the Japanese authorities should have acted earlier and with greater vigour to prevent prices falling in the early 90s. But so far it has failed to prompt the FOMC into action: at its meeting this week, the committee kept rates at a 40-year low for the eighth month in a row.
Two factors probably lie behind the Fed's over-cautious approach. A rate cut might have alarmed already nervous markets by revealing the extent of the Fed's concerns about the outlook.
The second is that the Republican administration's lurch into deficit has boxed in the Fed. With fiscal policy already loose, the Fed feels constrained about delivering more stimulus to the economy through lower borrowing costs.
The tax cut which the administration hailed as saviour of the economy last year now looks like a major policy error. If the recovery continues to be sluggish, the government cannot increase spending or cut taxes further to help get the economy moving without being punished by the markets for fiscal laxity.
Most economists expect the Fed to cut rates later this year. However, the monetary authorities are running out of ammunition: with rates already at 1.75% there is not much more the Fed can do.
The next few months will be a testing time for the US economy. President Bush may believe that the country's underlying strengths are greater than the challenges ahead. For his advisers, the real worry must be that the phrase which sank Bush senior's re-election chances - "It's the economy, stupid" - will prove equally damaging to his son.
© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2002
which means this PRETENDERs term is coming to an end.”
“Hmmm... Deflation would really irritate me. I count on my house appreciating in value and such.”
“Here's the spin on why nobody in DC gives a rip about the deficit.
August 14, 2002
By Stan Collender
The Congressional Budget Office's announcement last week that the fiscal 2002 deficit will be close to the Office of Management and Budget's most recent $165 billion estimate did not result in much shock or outrage. Nor did CBO's projection that—in sharp contrast to what OMB forecast—the deficit will increase rather than drop from 2002 to 2003.
The lack of shock is understandable. The much-higher-than-originally projected 2002 deficit that first OMB and now CBO reported was really more a confirmation than a revelation. We have known for months that the low estimates made at the start of the year almost certainly would be exceeded—the economy had not performed as well as had been anticipated, and Congress and the president were approving additional spending. It simply was not news.
The lack of outrage, however, is a bit harder to explain.
Part of the reason is simply logistics. Congress and a large part of the Washington press corps that follows the budget is out of town. This means the budget does not draw nearly as much attention as it would if the numbers had been released in September.
The federal budget is also competing for financial press attention with the daily soap opera taking place on Wall Street. Frankly, the stock market is more fun to follow and more immediately important to most people than the budget.
But the two biggest reasons for the yawns are simple. First, President Bush has given everyone a free pass on the deficit. Second, unlike the markets, the deficit is not causing enough pain for anyone outside of Washington to force those inside the Beltway to do anything about it.
The free pass was issued at the beginning of the year when the administration said that it was OK to have a deficit in times of war or economic emergency. Since then, large-scale military activities have been both planned and actually conducted, and the economy has continued to be in the doldrums. In other words, the pass is still good.
As a result, the need to deal with "the deficit" essentially has been dismissed out of hand—not just in Washington but outside as well. The fact that the red ink is now forecast to be much larger than had been anticipated is considered to be as irrelevant as the fact that it exists at all. Hence... no outrage.
However, the lack of immediate pain caused by the deficit may be the biggest reason. Unlike stock prices, which seem to have a daily impact on the value of what many Americans own, a higher or lower deficit just doesn't seem to have a direct impact on anyone.
And the one place where it might have a more immediate impact—on interest rates—is being affected by other factors. Reports last week indicated that yet another mortgage refinancing rush is now on because rates have been dropping as a result of the slow economy. The fact that they could be even lower if the federal government was reducing instead of increasing its debt is both hard to explain (think 10-second sound bite) and harder still to quantify.
There also has been no indirect impact. With no caps on spending, no budget process agreement that the deficit must be reduced, the free pass provided by the president, and the political imperatives involved with getting re-elected, there has been little or no reason for Congress and the White House to limit spending as the deficit has become larger.
This has taken away one of the reasons the deficit has traditionally posed a problem for some in Congress—the fact that there might be pressure on favored programs.
There are two possibilities for when this will change.
The first is when some charismatic leader takes up the deficit as her or his issue. This could be someone already in office or someone who, Ross Perot-style, is not yet on the national radar screen. The second is when the deficit starts to impose some type of pain on enough people— rising mortgage rates, for example—that dealing with it becomes a much higher priority.”
“GORDON YOU IDIOT YOU'RE POLISHING THE BRASS ON THE TITANIC!”
“Did you forget to turn your caps lock key off?
And how does a 1912 ocean liner relate to this thread?”
“It's one of those things people say when they can't prove anything else they have to say.”
“You freakin idiots need me to explain, okay. Your never going to have to worry about the deficit because of the very real probability of depression due to our president and his ties to lying CEOs and his refusal to take on the issue. He doesn't care as long as he gets his four years to wage war and take away civil liberties.
POLISHING THE BRASS ON THE TITANIC
Get it now stupid?”
“No one has ANYTHING TO SAY”
“Because I'm right.”
“Because you're so friggin' stupid that your moronic posts deserve no comment...now piss off, troll, and yer little dog, too!”
“What about your refusing to face the issue? Someone in your other thread asked what you would have done if you were president. Guess you would have dodged the issue. What are you, some sort of armchair politician, little boy?”
“Why blame bush for an economic downturn that started while klinton was still in office?
And why blame bush for corporate accounting scandals from using accounting methods approved by the SEC under klinton?
and why blame bush because people like you put money in the stock market without knowing how to read an annual report or 10k statement? Some of us saw numbers that made no sense and bailed out of enron and worldcom in early 2001.”
Quelle suprise, <YAWN>.”
“Shut up,all of you.Bush #41 is a clone of Clinton.Both are actors playing the part and NOT doing a very good job.Stop paying taxes and you'll starve them out.”
“Well said, unc. Save me a seat at Leavenworth.”
“Me thinks it started l-o-n-g before Bushy & Clinton.”
an article I found interesting
“Everywhere I turn, geeks are complaining about the lack of privacy online and offline. The FBI wants to read their files, spammers want to snatch their email addresses, Big Evil Corporations want to know their beverage preferences, and Small Evil Companies want to plant spyware on their computers.
But is the privacy situation really that bad? Even though corporations have probably collected megabytes of information about me, they continue to send me junk mail advertising "feminine hygiene products". At the same time, I receive an average of 52.3 pieces of spam each days advertising "#&%!$ enlargement" (mine is already long enough, thank you very much).
Meanwhile, the US Federal government, which undoubtedly has the world's largest Beowulf cluster of privacy-invading database servers, is entirely clueless. They hand out student visas to dead terrorists. They strip-search three year olds at airports but let adults that fit terrorist profiles waltz through. They spend $30 mailing out an income tax bill for one cent.
So the FBI, CIA, NSA, ATF, DEA, IRS, and other three-letter wonders constantly invade your privacy. What's the big deal? If this is Big Brother, he must be deaf and blind with an IQ of 58.
Even with cookies, web bugs, spyware, and other online privacy-invading schemes, corporations still haven't been able to capitalize on their terabyte database of collected information. Sure, they might know that you're a man, but that won't stop them from advertising yeast infection medications to you. Oh, their database might show that you're lactose intolerant, but that won't prevent them from mailing out grocery store flyers promoting special discounts on Monterrey Jack. Yeah, they probably know that you only run Windows, but that won't stop CompUSSR from mailing out circulars offering computers that only come pre-installed with Windows.
I once made the mistake of posting a comment to an obscure Usenet group with my real email address. As a result, I get an average of 1000 spam messages per day. And yet, not one single mailing has ever been relevant to me. I don't want a home loan, I don't want to run a background check on my neighbor's second cousin, I don't need debt consultation, I don't even want to know about human growth hormones, I don't want to gamble my life savings away at some offshore Internet casino, I don't need toner cartridges, and I certainly don't want to kill my boss and throw away the alarm clock (I run my own small business that manufactures alarm clocks).
Thousands of spammers know my email address, but they don't know a darned thing about me. I wish they would invade my privacy and realize that I will never, ever be interested in any of their "products" (I use that term loosely) -- then maybe they would leave me alone!
In conclusion, government and corporations invade our privacy, but they don't actually use any of the information they collect, so there's really nothing to worry about. A deaf and blind Big Brother sitting in front of a computer with access to terabytes of personal information is still a deaf and blind Big Brother.
Let's move on and find another more important issue to direct our slactivism towards.”
“"'Repent, Harlequin!' said the Ticktockman"
There's only one hole in your logic, DOM. Uncle Sugar is dumb as a box of rocks, but he is also very large and weighty which results in tremendous inertia. Don't get in his way. Do not become the focus of his attention if at all possible. You don't want to be the next Richard Jewel or Steven Hatfill.
My other computer is a 1024-node Beowulf cluster... (yeah, I wish, LOL)”
“doesnt everyone own a 1024 node beowolf cluster? I already have my playstation with neural interface on order.....”
“With FLOPS like those, Minesweeper would kick some Serious Ass!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Programming today is a race between software engineers striving to build bigger and better idiot-proof programs, and the Universe trying to produce bigger and better idiots. So far, the Universe is winning."
- Rich Cook”
“By Alan Elsner, Reuters
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Bush used to call him "the evil one" but in recent months Osama bin Laden has become the unmentionable one, replaced by Iraqi President Saddam Hussein as the chief enemy of the United States.
In the aftermath of the attacks last Sept. 11 on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, which the United States says were masterminded by bin Laden, Bush constantly described the Saudi-born militant as an incarnation of evil and said he was wanted "dead or alive."
But since bin Laden disappeared late last year he is rarely if ever mentioned by the President or his senior advisers, who acknowledge that they do not know whether he was killed in an Afghan cave or is still alive and in hiding.
"They didn't find him, they don't know where he is and it's not in the administration's interest to keep reminding the American people of that," said Michael Sherry, a historian at Northwestern University in Chicago.
"Every time bin Laden is mentioned, it's a reminder that they don't have a clue and it's a reminder of their failure to fulfill their own stated war aims and it's a reminder that the war on terrorism has become directionless and not very effective," Sherry said.
Media coverage nowadays of events in Afghanistan has been drastically scaled back, although two recent fatal attacks against Christian civilians in Pakistan suggested that al Qaeda may be regrouping there and the screening by CNN of al Qaeda videos showing poison gas experiments dramatized the threat the group once posed and may again.
Instead, U.S. airwaves have been full of talk about the prospects of a new war against Iraq designed to topple Saddam before he acquires nuclear weapons. Bush says he has not decided on an invasion but has repeatedly voiced his determination to oust the Iraqi leader.
"We need to personify and demonize an enemy. Back in 1991 when the first President George Bush went to war against Iraq, he compared Saddam Hussein to Hitler. But when situations change and it becomes impractical or impossible to eradicate the enemy, he tends to disappear from the rhetorical radar screen," said American University historian Allan Lichtman.
"To keep dwelling on Osama and on Afghanistan would be to dwell on futility. The President, like a great white shark, has always got to be moving forward," he said.
AFGHANISTAN STILL UNSTABLE
Some opponents of invading Iraq, including Republicans who normally back Bush, have argued that the situation in Afghanistan remains highly unstable and that U.S. commitment is crucial to prevent the country from spiraling back into chaos.
"We have yet to pacify Afghanistan. U.S. troops are guarding President (Hamid) Karzai. The vice president was murdered in a treacherous attack by thugs. We really have a problem with regard to Afghanistan," said Jack Kemp, who served as housing secretary under the current President's father, former President George Bush.
Afghan Vice President Haji Qadir was killed in broad daylight in Kabul on July 6. The assassination underlined Afghanistan's shaky recovery from 23 years of war and was a major blow to the U.S.-backed Karzai government.
Nebraska Republican Sen. Charles Hagel, who has emerged as a clear voice against an invasion of Iraq, said the United States should stay focused on Afghanistan while trying to defuse other potential international powder kegs.
"Iraq is a threat, is a problem. But we also have other interests ... Afghanistan -- we're a long way from bringing that into a universe of some stability and security. Obviously, the Israeli-Palestinian issue is at a critical point. The India-Pakistan issue," he said.
U.S. public opinion polls suggest that Americans still regard the capture or verifiable death of bin Laden as a central measure of success in Bush's "war on terrorism" despite administration efforts to argue that it is not so important.
In a Gallup poll published last week, only 37 percent of respondents said the United States was winning the war; 14 percent thought the terrorists were winning but 46 percent said neither side was winning.
In another Gallup poll in early July, 50 percent of respondents thought U.S. accomplishments in Afghanistan could not be called a success until bin Laden was captured, while 38 percent said his capture was not required for success.
BUSH OUT ON A LIMB?
Robert Gray, a professor of government at Franklin and Marshall College in Pennsylvania, said Bush had made a mistake by identifying the war against terrorism too much with the person of bin Laden and was in danger of making the same mistake by repeatedly vowing to remove Saddam from power in Iraq.
"Bush says he has not decided to invade but he's pretty far out there on a limb and it's going to be difficult for him to crawl back," said Gray, North American editor of Defense and Security Analysis magazine.
The problem for Bush is, without an invasion of Iraq, there is no clear next step in a global war on terrorism, which Bush declared after Sept. 11 would be the defining mission for his generation for the foreseeable future.
"With no Osama bin Laden and no Saddam Hussein, the war on terrorism becomes a metaphorical abstraction, like the war on poverty," said Keith Shimko, a political scientist at Purdue University in Indiana.
"Clearly we ought to be rebuilding Afghanistan and securing its future. But we as a people have a short attention span and it's hard to keep a focus on nondramatic things that cost money and don't provide the immediate satisfaction you get from blowing things up," he said.
So apparently, we have just the right president. A MORON who just wants to blow up something.”
“That Afganneestan blowed up real good!”
Why does Bush not speak of OBL?
“Cuz you should speak only good of the deceased, and Bush has nothing good to say about OBL.”
“Ah, the cut-and-paste queen strikes again...”
“I'll have to agree Bush sucks right now. His plan for reducing/eliminating future forest/wildfires is to allow more logging in national forests. Good plan!”
“I agree completely, Treebait. It seems like he has used the fires this summer as reason to do away with some environmental rules, and benefit the lumber industry. You might also remember that earlier this year, he put a tarriff on Canadian lumber.
I wonder what this administration means when it says "streamlining" laws to allow for forest management?
I'd bet that if we looked under the republican's campaign contributions deep enough, we'd find some hefty lumber money in there.”
“One of the 'streamlining' mentioned is standardizing the planning and appeals regulations which now vary considerably between the Interior agencies and the Forest Service. klinton started this during his term but never really was given a priority and got sidetracked (his attention got diverted by a blow job and an impeachment so NEPA reform went on the back burner).
Another proposal is to update various laws that have never been amended since enactment. The endangered species act, for example, is now contrary to the principles of conservation biology. Scientific knowledge and understanding of species dynamics has changed since 1970. The text of the law has not kept pace.”
“Do you work for the timber industry?”
“No. I am an environmentalist with enough practical experience and formal education to realize the the national environmental industry groups are the biggest liars in the debate and among the least qualified to offer suggestions.
Why doesn't everyone wait until the specifics of the plan are unveiled before flying off the handle.”
“Prior experience, speaking of liars.”
“Gordon, You may have a point about flying off the handle. I have to ask, though, why commercial harvesting of trees gets included in a fire-prevention bill...
“Speaking of 'salvage' timber, what's Slade Gorton up to these days?”
“"I am an environmentalist with enough practical experience and formal education to realize the the national environmental industry groups are the biggest liars."
"Environmental Industry" is a an example of "newspeak." It's reality concealing double-talk.
Gordon: In your own words, how do the principles of conservation biology contradict the endangered species act?”
“"In your own words"
Now that's not fair.”
“I call Gordon, "Picasso", because he is a real work of art.”
“Ped: The term 'environmental industry' was coined by Tom Knutsen, a widely respected and award winning enviromental reporter for the Sacramento Bee. After he published a series of articles called 'Environment Incorporated' exposing the shady and unethical fundraising and financial practices of the major groups he immediately turned from hero to villain in the envirowhacko community. He reportedly received death threats after the articles.
The ESA, as currently wielded by lawyers and interpreted by the courts, assumes wildlife populations are constant and uniform. Historically, populations were varied, non-uniform and constantly fluctuating, with localized depletions following sudden collapses. Current legal rulings on the ESA do not recognize this, and still assume all-species-everywhere-without-change. The law is out of touch with science. That is why at conferences and seminars hallway conversations among wildlife biologists all have a consensus that the law needs major revisions if not repeal. The law is derisively called 'the pet of the month act' among biologists. Only a few dare publicly to say that.”
“In 1970 no one realized wildlife populations fluctuated?”
“What a crock!
"Hey guys, I know we're about to chop down the last few acres of this species habitat and there's only 500 of them left in the wild, but, hey, their populaton fluctuates anyway. So that makes it okay."
Corporate-paid scientists muddying the water is all that is.”
“So to summarize Gordon's statement:
"Extinction is A-OK!"”
“I'd just like to call attention to the fact that gordon refused, once again, to back any of his statements up with sources or evidence.”
“Jeez, what a surprise! I'm just totally amazed. What can I say? I'm totally at a loss for words.”
“Also, this is anectdodal, bu hear me out, I spoke to a friend of mine - a field bioligist - who talked a little about the ESA.
First, she said that the "hallway conversations" that she has been privy to that have criticized the ESA have done so because of its limited scope. No one that she knows in the field has seen the evidence and thought it a good idea that the act be scaled back or repealed. She found the idea of this laughable.
Second, the "pet of the month" club reference is generally used, according to my friend, to reference the fact that it is easier to rally people to the cause of cute animals, rather than keystone species. The fact of the matter is, without the ESA, we might have NO recourse against companies who cause a major danger to species that already have small populations. So the "cute" animals act as poster-animals for the real work that has to be done.
Again, these are the opinions of one person, but it is a person who works in the field and knows the issues surrounding the work she does.”
“Gimmie a G!
Gimmie an O!
Gimmie a R!
Gimmie a D!
Gimmie an O!
Gimmie a N?
What's that spell?
B U L L S H I T!!!”
“Efforts to save small creatures like the Snaildarter often invite ridicule from the opposition. It's easier to rally support for 'cute' species and charismatic megafauna like whales, lions, bears, etc.”
“heh, heh, he said megafauna...”
“You want some mor-a?
Right here on the flora?”
“A day without this thread at the top is like a day without sunshine.”
“We have evidence that Bush is involved in a menage a trois with hillary clinton and ross perot.
I know this may seem strage to some, but it IS politics, after all.”
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