You have come to a place mute of all light, where the wind bellows as the sea does in a tempest. This is the realm where the lustful spend eternity. Here, sinners are blown around endlessly by the unforgiving winds of unquenchable desire as punishment for their transgressions. The infernal hurricane that never rests hurtles the spirits onward in its rapine, whirling them round, and smiting, it molests them. You have betrayed reason at the behest of your appetite for pleasure, and so here you are doomed to remain. Cleopatra and Helen of Troy are two that share in your fate.
The Dante's Inferno Test has banished you to the Second Level of Hell! Here is how you matched up against all the levels:
Back in July I mentioned a particularly bizarre piece of spam I'd received. Wired takes a look at the phenomenon of the "time-travel spammer," and notes that some even went so far as to jokingly offer to supply the requested material. Now the guy's father is worried that he may have taken some more unscrupulous respondents up on their offer.
This BBC article on the latest game technology available for Japanese cell phone indicates that the pint-sized portables offer the power of the original PlayStation -- and prove it with a port of the original Ridge Racer game.
Game makers have been offered a glimpse of the latest in games for mobile phones, with insights into the sort of things keeping Japanese thumbs busy.
They include virtual pets which are fed by photos, pronunciation puzzles and games that are the quality of PlayStation One titles.
"The Japanese market is years ahead of Europe and the US," explained David Collier of Namco, one of the most successful Japanese mobile game publishers.
The games currently popular on mobiles in Japan hint at the sort of thing you could be playing on your phone in the future.
He told his audience of industry professionals that the quality of the games was improving all the time, as handsets pack more and more computing power.
One of the games on show was the console racing title, Ridge Racer, which has been adapted for the mobile.
"You now have a PlayStation One game running on a mass market handset in Japan, delivering a fully interactive 3D game," said Mr Collier.
But gamers are being asked to pay a premium for such high quality games. Ridge Racer is being sold in Japan for $11, about double the price of other titles.
Other console games may soon appear on handsets, especially the older arcade type.
"The game mechanics of arcade classics are perfect for mobile phone as they were designed for three-minute plays," explained Mr Collier.
Some of the games available seem designed to appeal to teens. Mr Collier showed off a virtual pet game from Panasonic, which is reminiscent of the tamagotchi craze.
The game uses the handset's camera to create food. When the pet is hungry, it shows a picture of a type of food like an apple.
You then have to take a picture of something red, which the phone interprets as an apple and feeds to your pet.
The game also lets you send food to a friend's pet via an infra-red connection.
Another virtual pet game uses a fingerprint scanner built into a handset to let your animal know that you are going to play with it, sending it into throes of joy.
Other games also make use of the camera on handsets. Mr Collier demonstrated a game which creates a fighting character based on your photo.
It interprets your image to give your character speed and power. You can then send this to a friend's mobile to do battle.
Another game uses a phone's microphone for educational purposes. The game is intended to help children with their pronunciation and works by comparing what they say with a sample on the handset.
Some of these games may sound typically Japanese, but Mr Collier believes the trend towards doing more with your handset is global.
"Mobile culture is a mass market thing," Mr Collier told the Game Developers Conference being held in London this week.
"It has gone mainstream. Everyone is checking their phones all the time and there is no reason why that should not happen here."
The Game Developers Conference Europe runs at London's Earls Court conference centre until Friday.
It is part of London Games Week, which brings together a range of industry and consumer events around the capital.
By the way, an version of the original Ridge Racer also comes with Namco's popular PSX game Ridge Racer Type 4. The design team had hoped to achieve a frame rate of 60 fps with that game, but was unable to with the amount of detail R4 boasted. However, they went back and tweaked the original game to that sizzling frame rate and included it on a bonus disc.
President Bush's campaign — expected to dwarf Democratic hopefuls by raising $200 million or more for the primaries, with no GOP rival — is appealing for donations by portraying Bush as a fund-raising underdog who won't have enough cash to defend himself against Democratic attacks.
"Democrats and their allies will have more money to spend attacking the president during the nomination battle than we will have to defend him," campaign chairman Marc Racicot wrote in the fund-raising e-mail sent Wednesday night. "If you need more convincing the president needs your help, consider what the Democrats are saying. The race is just starting, but their rhetoric is already red-hot."
Bush has set several fund-raising records, including the most collected for a presidential primary and the most raised at a single event. [Emphasis added.]
Racicot's e-mail attributes quotes to several Democratic presidential hopefuls criticizing Bush.
Among them, Racicot says former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean stated that Bush might suspend the 2004 election, called Bush "reckless" and "despicable," compared him to the Taliban and said Bush was trying to destroy Social Security, Medicare, public schools and public services.
"This ugly, overheated rhetoric shows Democrats will say anything and stop at nothing to defeat this president," Racicot wrote.
Asked if the comments attributed to Dean were accurate, Dean spokeswoman Tricia Enright was incredulous.
"Compared him to the Taliban? Absolutely not. Suspend the 2004 election? What is that about?" Enright asked. "He said his (Bush's) tax policies were reckless. Obviously all this was taken out of context."
Enright said it was surprising that "a guy who has portrayed himself as the fund-raising Superman" was now describing himself as an underdog.
Bush campaign spokesman Scott Stanzel defended the letter, saying it expects a close race and "we're raising the resources to pay for grass-roots activities and to get the president's message out."
Bush's fund raising has broken records. In 2000, he bypassed public financing and its spending limits during the primaries and raised more than $100 million with help from more than 200 Bush campaign "pioneers," volunteers who collected at least $100,000 each for him.
The 2000 Democratic hopefuls, including eventual nominee Al Gore, took public financing and were limited to about $40.5 million in primary spending.
Last year, Bush set a single-event record by raising more than $30 million at each of two galas for the GOP, surpassing the previous mark of $26.5 million set in 2000 by then-President Clinton and Vice President Gore at a Democratic Party fund-raiser.
Bush also is skipping public financing for next year's primaries. With the individual contribution limit doubled to $2,000 under the new campaign finance law, he is widely expected to raise more than $200 million. He has no challenger for the GOP nomination.
Bush began fund raising for his re-election effort in mid-May and had taken in $35 million by the end of June, the most recent figures available.
The biggest fund-raiser among the nine Democratic hopefuls from January through June was Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, whose campaign collected $16 million.
"George Bush's campaign coffers need more money like his wealthy contributors need more tax cuts at the expense of Social Security, health care and a balanced budget," Kerry campaign spokesman Robert Gibbs said.
Racicot's e-mail says Democrats "will have the all-out help of some leaders in the AFL-CIO, many wealthy personal injury trial lawyers, and well-funded liberal special interests. The hundreds of millions of dollars they will spend could make the race close."
He noted the $10 million that multibillionaire George Soros pledged to a new Democratic-leaning get-out-the-vote group. The organization, America Coming Together, plans to raise $75 million from labor groups and others to try to defeat Bush.
ACT is among several groups Democrats' supporters have formed to help the party compensate for the loss of "soft money," corporate, union and unlimited donations the nation's new campaign finance law bars the national parties from collecting.
The GOP raised soft money too, but Democrats were more reliant on it.
In the first half of this year, allowed to raise only limited donations from individuals and political action committees, the GOP's three national committees raised $115.7 million, compared to $44.2 million by their Democratic counterparts.
The wildly popular web comic that spawned a best selling trade paperback has found a new home! Fans and friends of the Megatokyo web comic have come to love the characters and their offbeat adventures. Whether they are entangled in a fantasy gaming scenario, saving Tokyo from devastation by rampaging zombies, or taking awkward and disaster-filled steps towards a meaningful relationship, we get to experience Tokyo through their many unique and drastically different points of view. Those new to the series may find familiar emotions and a dialogue that is eerily similar to their own. Megatokyo is a graphic story that speaks directly to the hordes of manga/anime and gaming fans in America, and it's a long overdue conversation.
Megatokyo tells the story of two Americans, Piro and Largo, who fly to Tokyo on a whim only to end up unable to afford tickets home. Rife with references to video game and anime culture both here and in Japan, it is a story that contrasts the cultures, the characters, and their own perceptions of what is around them.
Megatokyo Volume 2 by Fred Gallagher and Rodney Caston is scheduled to arrive January 2004 with a retail price of $9.95.
Needless to say, I am very excited about working with Dark Horse Comics. Years ago, when the idea of printing Megatokyo was not something I took seriously, I was sometimes asked what publisher I thought would be best for MT, my answer was always Dark Horse. I've always felt that the quality of their books were exceptional, so much so that it was one of the 'Ah My Goddess' volumes that I used as a model for what I wanted my books to look and feel like. With Dark Horse's quality standards, I know that both book 2, the re-issue of book 1, and any subsequent projects I do with them will more than satisfy my expectations and give the MT readers books they will enjoy owning.
I feel honored and humbled by the attention that Megatokyo has attracted over the past few months. I've managed to get a very interesting overview of the comics and publishing industry, and I think that now is not only an exciting time for myself and my works, but for other owner-creators as well. The success and popularity of graphic novels and related works has a future that goes beyond just Japanese produced manga/comic titles. I feel that there is a lot of great work out there, and that people far more talented than me will also be able to put their work in front of a lot of people. All they need to do is keep climbing, and never mind the scruffs and scrapes - the view is worth it.
Personally, I'm very excited at this news and looking forward to reading the Dark Horse edition come January.
As for mainstream journalists, "I think they're intimidated by charges of liberal bias. There are so many other biases in all the mainstream media: pack mentality. Sensationalism. Sex. Conflict. Getting it cheap. Getting it first instead of getting it right." To ask whether the establishment press has a liberal bias "is like asking whether al Qaeda uses too much oil in their hummus."
Bingo. And, I might add, the "intimidated" charge sticks pretty well too. I don't blame conservatives for working the refs, of course, but it's a little disingenuous of them to howl like they do when it doesn't work, or for them to kvetch about "liberal bias" when the press doesn't perform their desired function of becoming a 24/7 right-wing propaganda machine.
Kevin Drum is also exactly right about the distinction between hard news stories and feature articles(and also, although he doesn't mention it, "news analysis").
The simple truth is that the standard of living of most Americans depends on getting jobs that pay well. This means that unemployment matters not just for those out of work but also for those whose wages are depressed when too many people are competing for too few jobs. For most Americans, the best economic policy is still low unemployment. That's why the late 1990s produced income growth for the poor and the middle class as well as the wealthy.
An important fact to bear in mind as we wait and see whether recent signs of life in the economy translate to jobs and prosperity for all, or if unemployment only declines either because job seekers simply give up or accept low-wage, low-benefit, low-status jobs in the service sector.
Even as they boost their budgets for online advertising, major U.S. companies will be wary of e-mail marketing campaigns until the menace of unsolicited "spam" e-mail has been tamed, top industry officials said on Thursday.
"Our marketers are basically saying spam is killing (e-mail marketing)," Bob Liodice, president of the Association of National Advertisers (ANA), told Reuters.
E-mail marketing "clearly will be muted until they have a greater degree of confidence that their messages will go through in the way that they want them to," he added.
But Liodice was quick to point out that he believes using e-mail as a legitimate marketing tool "will skyrocket" once spam is under control.
In the past, leaders in the advertising industry have trailed other trade and consumer groups who are pressing for tougher legislation and enforcement against spam.
That is changing, however, as companies invest more on online advertising. Concern has arisen about spam because e-mail is easily deleted by consumers angered by the explosive growth of the often deceptive or vulgar messages.
The ANA, which represents more than 300 leading companies, and the American Association of Advertising Agencies, known as the "4As," are hammering out guidelines for using e-mail to market products and services credibly.
A nine-point proposal they have drawn up defines spam as "unsolicited, bulk, untargeted commercial e-mail," and tries to distinguish it from more legitimate, direct online marketing.
The proposal calls for commercial e-mail to be sent from working Web addresses, preferably ones which include a company or brand name to clearly identify the sender.
E-mail ads should have an easily located option which consumers can mark if they do not want to receive further mail, but the proposal does allow e-mail marketers to send targeted, unsolicited e-mail if a consumer has not "opted out."
O. Burtch Drake, president of the "4As," said most leading advertisers already abide by such rules.
He said the industry prefers formal recommendations for business practices rather than advocating a "do-not-spam" list similar to the "do-not-call" list for consumers who do not want to hear from telephone marketers.
"In the case of spam, if you make up a list of all the addresses, that becomes a pretty valuable list (for spammers to send more e-mail)," Drake said.
While advertisers still prefer other online marketing tools like paid search listings, direct marketers are keen on preserving e-mail for ads, especially if a "do-not-call" list dries up other avenues for reaching customers.
"I don't think we all recognized how big the problem was going to be until six to nine months ago," said Greg Stuart, president of the Interactive Advertising Bureau. The IAB is also planning to develop e-mail ad guidelines, he said.
Stuart said some advertisers waited on the sidelines hoping that technology, in the form of spam filters, or legislation would be put in place to stem the tide of spam.
But a problem with spam filters is that they have blocked e-mail from companies with which a consumer wants to communicate.
One other problem leading to the proposals has been that new laws and stricter enforcement have been slow off the mark.
"Our marketers are basically saying spam is killing (e-mail marketing)"...whoa, man, that's heavy.
Destroy All Monsters has posted my review of Hong Kong director Cory Yuen's first Western-produced action flick, The Transporter, which was produced and co-written by veteran action filmmaker Luc Besson (La Femme Nikita, The Fifth Element).
*I know, I know, it was carefully parsed to not be an actual declaration of victory -- especially since we were then unwilling to accept the responsibility of an occupying power -- but just as carefully couched to give the appearance of a victory speech. Remember, you can't trust a thing Bush says, or seems to be saying.
Mark Kleiman continues to be the go-to guy on the Valerie Plame affair...in this post he notes that Ambassador Wilson seems to have fingered Karl Rove (!) as one of the people who outed his (Wilson's) wife as a covert CIA agent. This whole situation stinks on ice, and it's about time it got the attention it deserves -- as in a serious criminal investigation.
Blog of the Moderate Left notes that we have the mojo now. Can you dig it! Dwight Meredith responds with the interesting observation that "the elephant in the room is that a conservative like Gallagher thinks that the politics of the Iraq war have shifted so far that it will not be a major political plus for the President," and Demosthenes has more.
Halliburton, the company formerly headed by Vice President Cheney, has won contracts worth more than $1.7 billion under Operation Iraqi Freedom and stands to make hundreds of millions more dollars under a no-bid contract awarded by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, according to newly available documents.
The size and scope of the government contracts awarded to Halliburton in connection with the war in Iraq are significantly greater than was previously disclosed and demonstrate the U.S. military's increasing reliance on for-profit corporations to run its logistical operations. Independent experts estimate that as much as one-third of the monthly $3.9 billion cost of keeping U.S. troops in Iraq is going to independent contractors.
The Angry Bear observes that Red states -- you know, the ones that vote for those so-called "small government" Republicans -- receive more Federal revenue than they pay in taxes; Blue states, less. Fascinating.
Zannah links to a story indicating that CD-Rs may "wear out" in as little in two years. If that's true, I'm in big trouble. I need to fix my CD-R drive as it is, and when I do, I need to be making backups. Unlike Zannah, I have had CD-Rs go bad on me in the past. The brand of the CD seems to have an effect, but as she pointed out, the article doesn't say which ones to avoid.
I'm testing the BlogBack comments system. Please add a comment to this post.
Update: Sheesh, that was easy. Okay, it looks like I'll be going with BlogBack, at least for the time being. I've added code that archives the enetation comments, so hopefully the contributons of previous posters will remain accessible.
Great googly moogly! Japanese artist and photographer Tomoko Sawada posed for a series of thrirty professional portraits at a studio that takes pictures of prospective brides for marriage arrangement services. Each time, she wore a different outfit and hairstyle. It's hard to believe the resulting gallery is all of the same person.
In a separate but similar project, ID400, Sawada took pictures of herself using a public photo booth, altering her appearance subtly -- and sometimes not-so-subtly -- between images. Combined into a huge collage, the photos are an astonishing reminder of the illusion of one's personal appearance.
I haven't been blogging about the strange and terrible saga of Alalabama Chief Justice Roy Moore and the Ten Commandments monument he installed in the Alabama Judicial Building, although I have been following the story, even in Orlando. Fortunately, Jeff Cooper has been picking up the slack, and providing a bounty of excellent links as well. Start here and scroll down at least to here.
1: And God spake all these words, saying, 2: I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. 3: Thou shalt have no other gods before me. 4: Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: 5: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; 6: And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments. 7: Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain. 8: Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9: Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: 10: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: 11: For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it. 12: Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee. 13: Thou shalt not kill. 14: Thou shalt not commit adultery. 15: Thou shalt not steal. 16: Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour. 17: Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour's.
Check it out. As far as I'm concerned, the first one fails the Establishment Clause right off the bat. But moving on, we see that as a matter of law, the only contenders are "Thou shalt not kill," "Thou shalt not steal," and in some circumstances, "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour." Several of the others are explicitly religious commandments ("Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy"); the rest are guides of morality ("Thou shalt not covet") that don't, in general, enjoy the force of law.
And as for the ones that are matters of law, come on...don't kill and don't steal are pretty much no-brainers, aren't they? I doubt they could be considered a stunningly original work of jurisprudence.
I was discussing the matter with one of my wife's relatives down in Orlando. While the conversation was polite, it was clear she didn't agree with me about the preceding opinons, the notion that a judge doesn't have the right to force Christianity on his court, or several other matters. What did get through, though, was when I pointed out that Moore wasn't "defending what he believed." What he believed -- other than the right to urinate on the First Amendment -- wasn't in question. I pointed out that what Moore was doing was using his Christianity as a matter of self-aggrandizement. She seemed to realize that it was so, and hopefully, by considering that Moore was not exactly a Defender of the Faith, she might give thought to the merit of my other arguments. Or not.
While we were in Orlando over the weekend, my copy of the Spanish zombie movie Tombs of the Blind Dead (reviews at The Bad Movie Report, Cold Fusion Video and Braineater) arrived. I had entered into several auctions on eBay to obtained a copy of the out-of-print Anchor Bay double-feature DVD, but was reluctant to go too high on the price, so I lost three in a row. However, while I was bidding in the third, I noticed a copy for sale on Half.com for less than the current bidding price of the last auction I was in. As I'd found no more for sale on eBay, I grabbed it. I'm looking forward to enjoying the movie soon, especially as October -- and my month-long celebration of All Things Horror -- is just around the corner.
Update: I watched the flick last night, and it's an enormously entertaining motion picture! It actually manages to be somewhat scary a time or two -- and it's rare, these days, for me to find a movie anything but mildly creepy. It's also well-made and much more linear and coherent than many of its Italian brethren. The Anchor Bay edition is out of print, but if you're a horror buff and have a chance to score it, I certainly recommend you do so.
The federal government is heading toward a record $480 billion deficit in 2004 and will rack up red ink of almost $1.4 trillion over the next decade, according to the latest analysis by the Congressional Budget Office.
CBO Director Douglas Holtz-Eakin added that deficits over the next decade could more than double current estimates if the Bush administration tax cuts become permanent and the Congress fails to control spending. "These choices do matter. We cannot do everything simultaneously," he said.
The nonpartisan budget office on Tuesday also confirmed earlier estimates that the federal deficit for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30 will be $401 billion, well above the previous record of $290.4 billion set in 1992.
The 2004-2013 deficit estimate of $1.397 trillion reverses previous predictions that the federal government, battered by economic recession and rising defense and security costs, would still take in more than it spends over the coming decade.
The CBO put the deficit in 2005 at $341 billion, and predicted that the budget will finally return to a surplus in 2012 and 2013. But it also hedged those predictions, saying they were based on the assumption that Congress will allow several tax cuts enacted in recent years to expire in 2010. That is unlikely to happen.
It also bases the future cost of the Iraq operation on an emergency spending bill this year rather than future policy, and does not take into account new spending programs, such as a $400 billion Medicare prescription drug plan Congress is now working on.
Besides defense costs, Democrats were quick to cite the Bush administration's tax cuts for the government's financial problems. The CBO, while saying there were other factors, said tax cuts enacted this year were responsible for much of the anticipated decline in revenue over the next few years.
"There's no way to gloss over these numbers," said Rep. John Spratt of South Carolina, top Democrat on the House Budget Committee. "We've got a grave problem on our hands."
But Trent Duffy, spokesman for the White House's Office of Management and Budget, said that with fiscal restraint the government can enact a prescription drug benefit, extend the tax cuts and still cut the deficit in half in the next few years. The OMB says the deficit will go from $475 billion next year to $213 billion in 2007.
The Bush administration has succeeded in enacting tax cuts the past three years, including a measure this year reducing taxes by $330 billion through 2013.
In its last budget estimates in March, the CBO predicted that the deficit would be $246 billion this year, but would move gradually back toward the black and result in an accumulated surplus of $891 billion in the 2004-2013 period.
"It is clear that these estimates will provide yet more evidence of the nation's fiscal deterioration under the irresponsible tax cut and spending policies of the Bush administration," said Sen. Kent Conrad of North Dakota, top Democrat on the Senate Budget Committee.
House Budget Committee Democrats said their analysis shows that the deficit will hit $465 billion in 2004, and will never go below $295 billion in the 2004-2013 period, reaching a total over the decade of $3.4 trillion.
If money from the Social Security surpluses now being used to pay for other federal programs is not factored in, the decade-long deficit will be $5.9 trillion, they said.
The Bush administration has blamed the swift reversal from budget surpluses to perennial deficits to the faltering economy, the Sept. 11 attacks and the sharp rise in defense and homeland security costs. The White House says the fiscal situation will improve as the economy, bolstered by the Bush tax cuts, becomes more robust.
The CBO numbers, he said, do not take into account the $1.2 trillion that will be lost if tax cuts scheduled to expire over the next decade are made permanent, and another $878 billion in new tax cuts over the decade being sought by the White House.
This fiscal year's deficit has already exceeded the old record of $290.4 billion set in 1992 when President Bush's father was president. Republicans argue that the economy is much larger today than it was then, so the budget shortfall has less of an impact and is not a record when measured as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product. Many economists look more at the percentage of GDP than raw dollars in assessing the impact of federal budget deficits on the economy.
The report comes as the latest blow in a relentless drumbeat of fiscal bad news that has put the Bush administration on the political defensive.
The White House itself last month predicted that federal budget deficits would balloon to $455 billion this year and $475 billion in 2004 -- far above the previous record of $290 billion reached in 1992 -- even without factoring in the mounting cost of the U.S. occupation of Iraq.
CBO forecast a smaller deficit this fiscal year, which ends on Sept. 30, mainly because it assumed previously earmarked Iraq funds were being spent more slowly.
But both Democratic and Republican budget analysts agree the actual deficit in 2004 could well come in higher than the agency's estimate -- possibly topping $500 billion once likely new Iraq war spending requests are included.
Democrats blame Bush's tax cuts for the steep slide in the government's fiscal position since it enjoyed a record surplus of $236 billion in 2000, and say they fear deficits will persist long after the weak U.S. economy recovers.
"CBO's forecast is the latest confirmation that the budget deficits are here to stay and will worsen without major changes in policy," said South Carolina Rep. John Spratt, the top Democrat on the House of Representatives Budget Committee.
Republicans argue that the cuts have boosted economic growth and note the projected deficits remain well below levels seen in the 1980s as a percentage of the size of the economy.
"The administration's plan to cut the deficit in half is a combination of strong economic growth and spending restraint. The economy appears to be picking up steam and now we should focus on keeping spending in check," said Trent Duffy, spokesman for the White House Office of Management and Budget.
The CBO forecasts that economic growth will accelerate considerably next year, with real GDP rising at a rate of 3.8 percent in 2004, up from 2.2 percent in 2003.
Unusually, however, it also forecasts that unemployment will nevertheless remain high, averaging 6.2 percent both this year and the next, in another potential pitfall for Bush in the 2004 presidential election.
Under the agency's latest predictions, the size of the government's budget deficit would peak in 2004 and slowly decline thereafter, giving way to small surpluses from 2012.
But it also noted that the forecast does not include many likely future costs that would greatly alter that picture.
For example, making permanent most of Bush's tax cuts -- which Republicans have vowed to do -- would add almost $1.6 trillion to the deficit over the next decade.
Also excluded are the $400 billion Congress wants to spend over that period to overhaul Medicare and even a modest reform of the ever-expanding reach of the Alternative Minimum Tax, which would cost a further $400 billion.
But if Congress permanently extends current tax cuts, as President Bush has requested, the numbers soar and remain in the red for the foreseeable future, adding another $1.6 trillion to the debt, the CBO said.
The forecasts do not include ongoing costs of U.S. military and reconstruction activity in Iraq or other new spending proposals. The cost of the Bush administration's proposal for expanding prescription drug benefits for seniors would add another $400 billion in debt, the CBO estimated.
Make no mistake about it: This deficit isn't the result of Keynsian economics, the war or any other excuse Bush makes. It's purely the result of credit-card conservatives run amuck. It's about this Administration refusing to be honest about the costs and benefits of its policies -- and who bears the former and gains the latter. Bush may enjoy his spending spree, coupled with lucrative giveaways for his plutocrat pals, but someone will eventually have to pick up the check.
If this so-called conservative government really does secretly want to cut popular Federal programs, let them propose to do so.
If this so-called conservative government really does want expensive boondoggles like missile defense, let them pay for them.
If this so-called conservative government wants to fight a war and occupy a nation, it must pay for it.
And if this so-called conservative government wants to pass tax cuts for the rich, let it be honest about the cost of that giveaway, especially in light of the previous three points.
But who am I kidding...honest? From these cheap-labor, credit-card wastrels? Not likely. Instead we get deficits as far as the eye can see, and a mounting debt that will be borne by my generation and my children. Thanks a lot, guys.
As Kos said, "Boy, we're going to see some nice, shiny charts in this election cycle. I look forward to seeing Bush defend his borrow and spend stewardship of the budget."
The White House collaborated heavily with corporations in developing President Bush's energy policy but repeatedly refused to give congressional investigators details of the meetings, according to a federal report issued yesterday.
The General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress, said in the report that Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham privately discussed the formulation of Bush's policy "with chief executive officers of petroleum, electricity, nuclear, coal, chemical and natural gas companies, among others."
An energy task force, led by Vice President Cheney, relied for outside advice primarily on "petroleum, coal, nuclear, natural gas, electricity industry representatives and lobbyists," while seeking limited input from academic experts, environmentalists and policy groups, the GAO said.
The task force was one of Bush's highest priorities after his inauguration and was launched on his 10th day in office. None of the group's meetings was open to the public, and participants told GAO investigators they "could not recollect whether official rosters or minutes were kept," the report said.
Yesterday's report was the culmination of a lengthy legal battle between Congress and the Bush administration over the secrecy of government deliberations. The GAO sued in federal court for access to records of Cheney's task force, but dropped the action after a decisive court setback, followed by pressure from Republicans. The GAO said its information was incomplete because of administration intransigence. Although the Energy Department released e-mails, letters and calendars that reflected heavy input from corporations, the GAO report provided the first systematic look at the extent to which the administration relied on corporations and insisted on secrecy in developing its policy, issued in May 2001.
Among the previously disclosed meetings were private sessions for Kenneth L. Lay, then the chairman of Enron Corp., the Texas energy trading company that collapsed in the nation's largest accounting scandal. Lay was given a 30-minute meeting with Cheney and a conference with a top aide for the task force.
David M. Walker, comptroller general of the United States and head of the GAO, said in an interview that the standoff over the task force documents called into question the existence of "a reasonable degree of transparency and an appropriate degree of accountability in government."
Walker said the energy investigation was the first instance since he took office in November 1998 in which the GAO was unable to do its job and produce a report according to generally accepted government auditing standards.
"The Congress and the American people had the right to know the limited amount of information we were seeking," Walker said.
The White House issued no substantive response. Jennifer Millerwise, Cheney's spokeswoman, said the White House hopes "that everyone will now focus as strongly as the administration has on the substance of meeting America's energy needs."
What I can't fathom is why this Administration didn't just come clean about this process from the beginning. The Administration's critics assumed (correctly, as it turned out) that Bush basically let his energy-industry cronies write favorable policies, and Bush's apologists wouldn't have cared.
Really, it's the second point that's the problem, isn't it?
A while back, I declared that while, far from being impressed by George W. Bush's so-called "leadership," Bush's behaviour generally inspires disgust and contempt, yet I don't go so far as to call it "hate."
Well, this person has no trouble with calling it hate, and has an eloquent summary of the reasons why.
Why would I say that I "hate" George W. Bush? Isn't that a little strong? Isn't he just your average politician? Isn't this just some natural extension of your overall left-leaning political views?
No, not really.
Before I get to George W. Bush, I need to explain what I think about politicians in general. For the moment, let us stipulate that politicians come in three general flavors:
The first category of politicians I believe to be genuinely honest and noble men committed to the ideal of public service. These are politicians who genuinely care, and strive to improve the Republic they cherish and the lives of its citizens. I believe these politicians to have principles, but I think they also understand reality rather well. They will master the art of compromise in the interests of accomplishment, and they may very well change their minds and their positions as they age or new events and concerns arise. But in the end, they keep one eye on what they sincerely believe to be RIGHT and another eye out for the pitfalls and roadsigns along the way. To our credit, such politicians have been surprisingly common in my lifetime. Who belongs in this category? George H.W. Bush was clearly such a man, and I respected his Presidency at the time, and respect it more in retrospect (despite my use of the convenient term "the first Bush Recession"). Bill Clinton was such a man. Bob Dole. John McCain. Howard Dean. Tom Daschle. George Voinovich. Even Jesse Helms, unlikeable though he may have been, belongs rightly in this category. I dare say, that this IS the most common type of politician in our nation's service.
The next category is where I place the demagogic ideologues. These are individuals who seem to enter politics through the motivation of zealotry rather than for personal gain. They're motives are similar to those of the noble politicians, but they're inability to adapt or to bend within the political process makes them dangerous to our Republic. For them, politics is about specific ends, and the means will always be adapted as needed to attain them. These politicians will lie and distort and accuse and rave. I don't have respect for these kinds of politicians. I fear them. In this category we can place Cynthia McKinney and Newt Gingrich, Dennis Kucinich and Tom DeLay. In present times, there are more prominent politicians on the right than the left whom I would place in this category. I don't believe it's a function of ideology, but rather an accident of history. Unprincipled ideologues can come from any stripe. It's when they conspire and manipulate to seize the levers of power, first within a party, then within a government, that they will rise to prominence. Right now, the DLC is the closest thing to a cabal that the organized left has. And they're substantially less powerful within their party than the RNC is within the Republican camp.
Then, bottom on the totem pole of politicians, I would lump the remainder… the unscrupulous cynics who gravitate to the profession for the love of power. Often, we learn the truth about these politicians in their trials, as with Senator Toricelli or with Richard M. Nixon. Dan Rostenkowski or Gray Davis. And one, one of these scumbags prances before the public eye, nakedly self-aggrandizing… contemptuous of America, contemptuous of Americans, contemptuous of his detractors, contemptuous of his supporters… and nobody seems to notice. And that one, I call him George W. Bush.
I can find very little in the life of George W. Bush to admire or to respect. I can't fault him for having the fortune to be born into a family of wealth, power and privilege. However, all the evidence shows that he never felt any special responsibility came attached to the gifts he received from birth. And I'm not even talking about the responsibility to be some kind of philanthropist or minister to the poor. I'm talking about the responsibility to demonstrate that he was entitled to all that he had by effort as well as by blood. With a special dispensation he was allowed into a top East Coast prep school where he slacked off and took the special efforts exerted on his behalf for granted. Given an unearned shot at an institution allegedly based on merit, he squandered and disdained the opportunity. Then, with mediocre grades he went to Yale on the strength of connections alone, maintaining a C average, far below the standard those who have attained such an opportunity through effort hold themselves to. Somehow, he still managed to fail his way upward into the Harvard MBA program, where again, there is no evidence that he applied himself with any particular diligence. Again and again, through Bush's life, he was handed opportunity that people strive ceaselessly for. Without any effort, he received chances that people work themselves to the bone to never get a shot at. And at each stage, he wasted it, unmindful and seemingly uncaring of the extraordinary exceptions that had been made on his behalf.
Between his stint at Yale and the one at Harvard, Bush "served" in the military. I don't see any particular disgrace in dodging the draft. Many have done it, and many who haven't would have. My own father joined the Marine Corps when his student deferment expired on the sensible theory that it was the branch least likely to send him abroad. Bill Clinton joined the Rhodes Scholar program. Dan Quayle joined the Indiana National Guard. But my father SERVED his term as a Marine. Bill Clinton WENT to Oxford. Dan Quayle PUT IN HIS TIME in the Indiana National Guard. Does it bother me that George W. Bush disappeared from active duty in the Texas Air National Guard? Ceased taking the physical after the institution of a drug-testing policy in 1972? Yes. It really does bother me. And it should bother you too. Because once again, it points straight to the issue of contempt. Contempt for America, for the obligations of citizenship. Our system is set up to grant allowances. But if an allowance is made for you, you should at least feel obligated to HONOR THE TERMS of your dispensation. And George W. Bush demonstrated no such sense of duty. No such sense of honor. Again, granted an opportunity on the basis of connections and fortune, he spurned it… pursued his own selfish ends, his own entertainment, at the expense of his nation.
I find nothing especially worthy of censure in his business career. It does little to enhance my opinion of him, as it demonstrates mostly a capacity to continue reaping, as an adult, the benefits of his more noble father's efforts. But venality and incompetence are neither an advantage nor disadvantage in the world of business, and say little about the true character of a man. At the age of 40, we are led to believe that he found some new inner-strength. It's hard not to look at contempt with a man who can honestly profess that he did not reach adulthood until his 40's. But in such matters, late is always better than never.
But by the standards of his present behavior, the behavior which has marked his rise to national prominence in the last several years, there is no demonstration of a watershed transformation in his character that would render him worthy of respect.
Being a shallow and opportunistic politician isn't an inherently damnable offense, though I would certainly argue he is one. Our country would have been better off had a more noble character been poised to reap the rewards of the Supreme Court's unfortunate choice in 2000, but I cannot fault him too much for his failures of leadership in that moment. His embrace of steel tariffs and agricultural policy more reactionary than those supported by Dick Gephardt doesn't automatically disqualify him from the ranks of men entitled to some mercy.
In the end, it comes down to the simple issue of character.
People love to fulminate about character. My standards are not those of everyone. I don't really hold any feelings against those prone to sins of the appetite, as Bill Clinton was. I have trouble holding poor judgment against those who demonstrate it. All I ask is some evidence of a fundamental respect for the dignity of people. And I don't think George W. Bush has that respect.
The evidence by which I come to this conclusion is unlikely to be compelling to most, gleaned as it is from countless observations of subtle tell-tale signals. The lies obviously bother me. There are those who believe that all politicians lie, and that Bush's are nothing exceptional. I don't know how to rebut such a charge, other than to state firmly and forcefully that I disagree. Watching Bush tell the nation with a straight face that they will receive an "average" tax cut of $1000 when he knows what the average person will actually receive is one of those little acts of disrespect. Sneeringly dismissing the protests of hundreds of thousands of Americans and millions worldwide at his instigation of a war abroad as mere "focus groups" is a telling indicator of the disrespect which created the frustration that propelled them to the streets in the first place (may I remind you, that neither his father nor his immediate predecessor faced anything on a comparable scale). Putting out word that he believed Air Force One to be the target of a terrorist attack to account for his shameful disappearance on September 11th of 2001… that's a kind of falsehood which makes my stomach start to churn in disgust. Untruths and misrepresentations abound in this President's public discourse, when he even bothers to show himself in public. More than usual, even for a politician. And, frankly, more than should be acceptable in the America I thought I knew.
But the final mark of disrespect… the gut-level intuition that leads me to label him an EVIL man, rather than a merely despicable one is his casual contempt for human life. There aren't words to describe the horror I feel when I see Bush look into the nation's television cameras with that sadistic little smirk and tell us euphemistically, as if half-choking on a stifled snort that our enemies… "let's put it this way: they are no longer a problem to the United States and our friends and allies." The barely-suppressed, no not really suppressed at all, look of GLEE at the thought of the death America has inflicted upon it's enemies. I recognize that it is necessary to kill human beings. I recognize that our security demands it. That every president must hold the lives and deaths of strangers in his hands. But the fact that we MUST kill NEVER excuses taking delight THAT we kill. You probably don't believe me. I don't know if you believe Tucker Carlson when he describes Bush's mockery of Karla Faye Tucker: "Please," Bush whimpers, his lips pursed in mock desperation, "don't kill me." Maybe some of you don't believe it. Worse, maybe some of you feel the same way, and consider Bush's response… virtuous? I don't know. I look at Bush, taunting the camera, daring America's enemies to "bring it on" and I see a sick and disgusting man – the worst face of America sneering in the spotlight. A man who doesn't bother to care about the enormity of his job, the enormity of its consequences, and the enormity of this glorious Republic we've brought forth.
When I look at George W. Bush, I don't see a patriot. I see a lying, psychopathic narcissist. And it pains me, it grieves me, it WOUNDS me to realize that this puts me not only in the minority… but in the "whacko fringe."
Testify! The only thing I'd add is that Bush is also a coward and a bully, and never to be trusted. But hey, I'm not complaining.
When I was in college, one of my favorite role-playing games was Twilight: 2000. The game was set in war-torn Europe during a hypothetical World War III between NATO and the Warsaw Pact. The players' goal was to survive the destruction of their division during the final offensive of the war and make their way back to friendly territory -- and then, ultimately, back to the States, where a whole new series of adventures awaited. My characters -- invariably US soldiers -- often carried Soviet weapons, as ammuinition was easier to scavenge from enemy soldiers. (The situation changed, of course, during campagins set in the US; then, I preferred M16s and shotguns.)
I've had some indications that the comment system may be boinked. Please do me a favor...leave a brief comment to this thread. If you're unable to, please email me. Thanks!
Update: According to the email I've received, comments are indeed boinked. According to enetation, they're upgrading a server, but I don't know long the problem has been going on or what, if anything, the new server has to do with it. In the meantime, if you're burning to tell me what you think of a post, please email me and I'll append it.
I don't patronize Blockbuster very much. It isn't really some frothing desire to boycott the place; it's just that I prefer the smaller, quirkier local stores than the Big National Chains. While we were in Orlando, I encountered a reminder as to why I don't like renting there, yet did realize it has its uses.
Sunday night, it transpired that we'd wind up with some free time in the evening, and not having much energy for anything else, we decided to rent a video. Of course, the drawback with patronizing the smaller, quirkier local stores is that your membership there isn't any good 950 miles away, and the smaller chains are hard to find in a big city.
Blockbuster, though, is like McDonald's. It isn't exactly a high-quality offering, but it's familiar and it's everywhere you look. And, of course, one's membership card is good anywhere. So I was able to waltz in and rent the recent Luc Besson-produced Corey Yuen action flick The Transporter and the second DVD of Neon Genesis Evangelion. When I was perusing previously viewed DVDs at a local Blockbuster the other day, I'd considered picking it up, but passed. Still, I was curious so I decided to go for a rental.
Of course, I got a reminder of why I don't rent very much any more when the bill cam -- nearly ten freakin' dollars! For two movies (I could have kept both for a week, but since I was flying home the next day, that fact added no value for me)! No wonder I buy the suckers...at practically five bucks a pop for rental, if I plunked down 15 for a used copy and watch it a mere three times, I break even. And Transporter seemed like fun; I'm sure I'd get that many viewings out of it.
So there you go -- Blockbuster's business model simply offers no appeal to me. Still, just as the Golden Arches of McDonald's can appear like an oasis on a long car trip, it's good to know that the predictable mediocrity of Blockbuster is there to offer entertainment while on the road.
We arrived home late last night and pretty much crashed right away. (Okay; my lovely wife and girls crashed right away; I stayed up for a quick round of Robot Alchemical Drive.) I need to get situated around here, and then posting will resume shortly. Thanks for your forbearance during the brief hiatus.
By the way, we flew through Louisville, so after our return flight, we managed a quick farewell visit to Hawley-Cooke. I'm glad we had one last chance to stop by.
It's also an interesting contrast that the drive between Louisville and Indianapolis took longer than the flight between Orlando and Louisville.
Destroy All Monsters has posted my review of wildman director Takashi Miike's insane Japanese gangster flick Dead or Alive, which I picked up at GenCon several weeks ago. Also up is the interview Musashi and I conducted with the proprietor of the booth where we got that DVD and Musashi's copy of The Returner.