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Thursday, January 24, 2008

Our World: The audacity of truth

Our World: The audacity of truth

Caroline Glick , THE JERUSALEM POST Jan. 21, 2008


It is hard to believe, but in just two weeks, American voters will all but determine the identities of the Democratic and Republican nominees for this year's presidential elections. It is hard to believe because today, after a handful of early primaries, neither side has even identified a frontrunner.
The open race, unprecedented in recent history, is a consequence of the fragmentation of America's political center. Ten years after Bill Clinton's impeachment; seven years after President George W. Bush's contested victory in 2000; and five years into the Iraq campaign, the cleavages both between the two major parties and within them have given purchase to candidates and policies that would have previously never made it out of the starting gate.
On the Republican side, this phenomenon is being played out in the campaigns of Congressman Ron Paul and Governor Mike Huckabee. On the Democratic side of the aisle, it is manifested in Senator Barack Obama's campaign.
Last Saturday Congressman Paul placed second in the Nevada primaries with 14 percent of the vote. Paul, who has raised some $20 million in three months, owes much of his mainstream support on both the Left and the Right to his pointed opposition to the war in Iraq. At the same time, his campaign's quest for mainstream respectability has been stymied repeatedly by the fact that neo-Nazi Web sites have embraced Paul's candidacy.
Paul's showing in Nevada was particularly impressive because a week before the Nevada primaries, James Kirchick of the New Republic published an in-depth investigative report on Paul's ideological background which showed that the neo-Nazis' support for him is not unjustified. Kirchick's report was based on a study of some three decades worth of mass-mailing political reports that have been published under Paul's name.
Kirchick's report, "Angry White Man" showed that between Paul's newsletters - whose articles are generally unsigned - and his public statements, there are strong indications that Paul shares the white supremacists' hatred of blacks, Jews and homosexuals. Moreover, Paul has spoken in warm support for the slave-owning Confederacy and the militia men who believe they must defend themselves against the Federal government and a web of global governance conspirators. He has also praised former Ku Klux Klan Imperial Wizard David Duke.
Before Kirchick's report, Paul outpolled Giuliani threefold in the early primary states. And after the report, he had his best showing to date in Nevada.
LESS SHOCKING, but still depressing is the candidacy of former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee. Huckabee, a former Baptist preacher is running an almost purely sectoral campaign for the evangelical vote.
Huckabee targets evangelicals by calling for the strengthening of America's Christian identity. Interestingly, in his bid for Christian support, Huckabee has not embraced evangelical advocacy of hawkish foreign policies and defense of Christian communities in the Muslim world. To the contrary, like former president Jimmy Carter, Huckabee advocates an emasculated foreign policy based on being nice to other countries. He likens disputes with foreign countries to family squabbles that can be solved by better communications. Following from this, Huckabee claims that America's problems with Iran are the result of America's lack of diplomatic relations with Iran.
To date, Huckabee won the Iowa caucuses, and has achieved strong second and third places in the other primary states. He lost South Carolina to Senator John McCain by a mere three points. But he doesn't appear to be made to last. His appeal to non-evangelical voters is almost nonexistent and without non-evangelical supporters, he has no chance of winning the Republican nomination.

IN CONTRAST to Paul and Huckabee, Barack Obama has a good chance of securing his party's nomination for president and winning the general election. And this is disturbing because like Paul, he enjoys the support of hateful bigots. And like Paul and Huckabee, he holds foreign policy positions which are based on the notion that the global jihad is not a serious threat.
Although the rumors that Obama - whose father and step-father were Muslims and who was educated in Muslim schools in Indonesia - is a Muslim are demonstrably false, his Christian affiliations are a cause for alarm in and of themselves.
Obama belongs to the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. Its minister and Obama's spiritual adviser is Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr.
In an investigative report on Obama published last week by the American Thinker Web site, Ed Lasky documented multiple examples of Wright's anti-Jewish and anti-white animus. Wright has called for divestment from Israel and refers to Israel as a "racist" state. Theologically, he believes that the true "Chosen People" are the blacks. Indeed, he is a black supremacist. He believes that black values are superior to middle class American values and that blacks should isolate themselves from the wider American society.
Wright is a long-time friend of the virulently anti-Semitic head of the Nation of Islam - fellow Chicagoan Louis Farrakhan. The two traveled together to Libya some years ago to pay homage to Muammar Gaddafi. Last year Wright presented Farrakhan with a "Lifetime Achievement" award.
Although last week Obama issued a statement condemning Farrakhan for his anti-Semitism, he did not disavow Wright - who married him and baptized his daughters. Obama has taken no steps to moderate his church's anti-Israel invective.
OBAMA'S affiliation with Wright aligns with his choice of financial backers and foreign policy advisors. To varying degrees, all of them exhibit hostility towards Israel and support for appeasing jihadists.
As Lasky notes, Obama has received generous support from billionaire George Soros. In recent years, Soros has devoted himself to replacing politicians who support fighting the forces of global terror and supporting Israel with politicians who support appeasing jihadists and dumping Israel.
As a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Obama opposed defining Iran's Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist group. He calls for the US to withdraw from Iraq - only to return if genocide is being carried out and then, only as part of an international force. He also supports opening negotiations with Iran even if the Iranians continue to enrich uranium. In forming these views, he is assisted by his foreign policy team which includes Zbigniew Brzezinski, Mark Brzezinski, Anthony Lake, Susan Rice and Robert Malley.
All of these people are known either for their anti-Israel views or their pro-Arab views - or both. Malley, a Palestinian apologist invented and propagated the false claim that the 2000 Camp David summit between the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and then prime minister Ehud Barak failed because Israel wasn't serious about giving the Palestinians a state. This view is disputed by Barak and Clinton.
For her part, as chief foreign policy advisor to Senator John Kerry during the 2004 presidential elections, Susan Rice reportedly convinced Kerry to announce that if elected he would appoint Jimmy Carter and James Baker to serve as his envoys for Middle East peace.
Mark Brzezinski has openly called for unconditional negotiations with Iran. For more than 30 years, Zbigniew Brzezinski has distinguished himself as one of Israel's greatest foes in Washington.
UNFORTUNATELY, in the anti-war frenzy now gripping much of the Democratic Party, one could say that there is nothing notable about the fact that Obama has hired anti-Israel foreign policy advisors, attends an anti-Israel church, and receives financial backing from anti-Israel billionaires. But even in this atmosphere Obama stands out - for not only does he theoretically support appeasement, he is actively advancing the interests of Islamists seeking to take control over a state allied with the US.
Kenya currently teeters at the edge of political chaos and civil war in the wake of the disputed Dec. 27 presidential elections. Those elections pitted incumbent President Mwai Kibaki against Raila Odinga who leads the Orange Democratic Movement. While the polls showed the public favoring Odinga, Kibaki was declared the winner. Odinga rejected the results and his supporters have gone on rampages throughout the country that have killed some 700 people so far. Fifty people were murdered when a pro-Odinga mob set ablaze a church in which they were hiding.
Kibaki is close ally of the US in the war against Islamic terror. In stark contrast, Odinga is an ally of Islamic extremists. On August 29 Odinga wrote a letter to Kenya's pro-jihadist National Muslim Leaders Forum. There he pledged that if elected he would establish Sharia courts throughout the country; enact Islamic dress codes for women; ban alcohol and pork; indoctrinate schoolchildren in the tenets of Islam; ban Christian missionary activities, and dismiss the police commissioner, "Who has allowed himself to be used by heathens and Zionists."
Although Odinga is an Anglican, he referred to Islam as the "one true religion" and scorned Christians as "worshipers of the cross." Obama strongly supports Odinga who claims to be his cousin. As Daniel Johnson reported recently in the New York Sun, during his 2006 visit to Kenya, Obama was so outspoken in his support for Odinga that the Kenyan government complained to the State Department that Obama was interfering with the internal politics of the country. After the Dec. 27 elections Obama interrupted a campaign appearance in New Hampshire to take a call from Odinga.
THE PAST 10 years have not been good ones for the American political landscape. And in times of acrimony and fragmentation, people tend to vote their prejudices. The candidacies of Paul, Huckabee and Obama are testimonies to this fact.
It can only be hoped that in the coming weeks and months ahead of the presidential election, the political center of American politics will reassert itself and that the final race will be between leaders who abjure bigotry and understand that foreign policy is neither about minding your business nor being polite. It is about opposing enemies, supporting allies and knowing the difference between them.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Democrats For Romney

Democrats of Michigan, on January 15th you have a unique and wonderful opportunity to screw over the Republican Party.

For more on why voting for Romney in your primary--however counterintuitive it may be to vote for that flip-flopping, say-anything-to-get-elected, neocon-of-convenience hack--isn't such a crazy idea, check out:

Lest there be any confusion, showing Romney's old stances as a less-than-diehard conservative in Massachusetts is intended to emphasize his ubercynical ability to shape-shift into desirable forms, not to suggest he's a somehow tolerable closet moderate who is simply pretending to be a detestable right wing nut. I don't mean to suggest he should be given the benefit of any doubt in that direction--that's by no means the reason Michigan Dems should cast their vote for him January 15th.

In the rough and real world of politics, Progressives can't afford for voting to be an emotional act of personal expression. It has to be pragmatic, strategic, and effective. So, just this weird once...go Romney. Though it burns my fingers when I type it. (less)

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Analysis: Why the "Hillary hacked NH?" story is important (Updated)

Analysis: Why the "Hillary hacked NH?" story is important (Updated)

By Jon Stokes | Published: January 11, 2008 - 03:32PM CT

I don't want to preempt my forthcoming coverage (it probably will go up Sunday night) of the steadily rising chorus of accusations that Hillary somehow stole the NH election. But I do want to start a thread about it here for people to post links to resources that I can refer to as I work on the story. So if you've been following this closely, feel free to drop into the discussion thread here and tell me what you're reading and what you think of it.
Related Stories

* Fox News faces wrath from right and left over debate footage stance
* Obama's innovation plan a Christmas list for the geekerati—analysis

My goal with this post and with tomorrow's coverage is not to lend any credence to the charges of election fraud—I believe there are more probable explanations for the upset—but to highlight the major issues that this minor controversy raises about election integrity and what we may have to look forward to in November.

Update: The New Hampshire Secretary of State's office has announced that they'll be doing a statewide recount of the primary's results, citing the Internet controversy (see below) over the results. I also want to add that, contrary to what is being reported at Wired's "Threat Level" blog, this controversy is very much about electronic voting machines. I don't really understand how a writer at an otherwise excellent infosec blog like "Threat Level" could make as elementary an error as equating "e-voting" solely with "paperless touchscreen voting machines," but it happened. Memo to Wired and to the rest of the press: optical scanners are "electronic voting machines," and they are just as vulnerable to hacking and tampering as touchscreens. See below for more on this.
The problem with New Hampshire

On the subject of election integrity, I want to use this post to highlight a few very important points for the various pundits, bloggers, and other media types who may be working on this story.

First, it is a huge mistake to assume (like this DKos poster) that the optical scan machines used in NH are somehow more secure than the much-maligned touchscreen machines, which didn't seem to be that widely used in the primary. Optical scanners can actually be less secure than touchscreens, because they're just as easy to tamper with (sometimes more so) as the touchscreens, but there's typically only one per precinct—an attacker therefore has a single point of failure to manipulate. The fact that optical scanners leave a paper record is totally irrelevant if a random audit of the results is not mandatory by law after every election. And in New Hampshire, there are no mandatory audits. As I've said before, mandating a paper trail without also requiring post-election audits is like buying a security system for your house and then not turning it on.

Ron Paul and his supporters may be a bit loopy, but they are 100 percent correct in insisting on some type of audit of the NH results—not because Hillary hacked the vote (I currently think there are better explanations for the results than vote hacking), but because such audits should always occur as a matter of course. Again, when you use an electronic voting system, you must audit the results if you want to have confidence in them.

Second, I want to congratulate lefty blog stalwart Josh Marshall on his apparent clairvoyance. Clearly, he has access to information about the integrity of the NH elections that has been denied to the public. In a post entitled "Enough," Marshall decried "the notion that public opinion surveys and even exit poll data is so reliable that any substantial discrepancy between those numbers and the official result is prima facie evidence of tampering. That is simply absurd."

He went on insist that "the possibility or danger of tampering is not a license to assume it or imagine it—in the absence of any evidence—any time the vote doesn't go how we'd like."

I single Marshall out not just because I'm a daily reader of his blog, but because the attitude exemplified in this post is typical of well-intentioned journalists who don't really grasp what's at stake in the e-voting debate. So let me clarify, for the benefit of Marshall and the others:

In a truly democratic election, the burden of proof is on the state to provide evidence of the election's integrity. This sentiment is behind the idea that ballots should be counted under the watchful eyes of the public's representatives. So elections are held to a much different standard than criminal proceedings, where the burden of proof is on the one who brings a charge of wrongdoing.

Right now, in the absence of an audit of the New Hampshire results, the state has not met the requirement that it prove to the public that the election was fair. This is what the fuss is about. New Hampshire does not have the manual audit requirement that is necessary to prove that an election was fair, so that state's ballots were effectively counted in secret by closed-source machine code. When ballots are counted in secret and it's up to the voters to prove that the election was rigged when they're surprised by the results, that's not the kind of democracy that the Founders had in mind for us.
Hillary's New Hampshire woes could be a prelude to a much bigger mess

I've saved the most important part of this post for last. Note that this is also the part of the post where I do what folks on the Internet are always wishing that "mainstream" journalists would do, and that's call it exactly like I see it. So feel free to disagree, but I think even the small minority of our audience that believes the very worst about Hillary Clinton will have to concede that I have a point about the lay of the land here.

All NH integrity issues aside, the real story in the mini-firestorm stirred up on the Internet in response to Clinton's NH upset is that it has important implications for the any presidential contest that includes the former First Lady.

Imagine the scene on the day after the November 2008 presidential election if Hillary Rodham Clinton wins the presidency in an upset, after citizens in states like Ohio went to the polls and voted electronically. If you're an independent who thinks that the left has made a big deal over the Florida results in the 2000 election, you ain't seen nothin' yet. Over the course of the 90s, segments of the right accused Clinton of a litany of sins that includes the murder of Vince Foster, so it's not at all a stretch to assume that they could and would add mass electronic election fraud to that line-up.

My point is that given the simple fact of who she is and the feelings that she stirs in her opponents, a close Clinton victory—especially if that victory is at odds with pre- and post-election polling—could precipitate a major electoral controversy to a degree that is not true of any other candidate on either side. Unlike Al Gore in 2000 and John Kerry in 2004, no Republican candidate is likely to roll over and let Clinton take the White House if they can get substantial traction with accusations that she stole the election. So there's a small possibility (or a large one, depending on how you judge the odds of a close Hillary victory), that we may be in for a mess that makes us long for the halcyon days of "hanging chads."

From my perspective, this is what's really at stake in the ongoing e-voting controversy: the government's inability to fulfill its obligation to prove to the public that our elections are fair makes our democracy so much more fragile, and so much more susceptible to cracking under the shock of a major election controversy.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Bill Clinton & The Middle East

I don't know about Hillary being a bitch. I don't personally knw her well enough to use expletives BUT
there are good reasons why I will not vote for her [altho at one time i thought I would].
I think that she is as deceitfull as her husband, and she appears to be a person short of telling the truth. So what? Other politicians do the same. In many respects she is no better nor worse than most of the persons running in this camapain. I think that she would be very strongly influenced by her husband's opinions and her husband was a moral scorpion when it came to deceisions about Israel. President Clinton was more concerned about making a good impression on Arafat than on helping america's only real ally in the Middle East. he actually forced Barak to take measures that weakened Israel. Today, mainly because of Clinton, Israel is actually weaker than in the 20th century. To a great degree, Israel survives today because of it's neighbors' continuous Levantine mode of being. Levant used to descrive merely a portion of the globe - the Near East. It now has become a term of denigration, implying backwardness and barbarous thinking and actions. No matter how technological the Levantines become, they cannot enter the 21st century - so they cannot be on a par with israel which is very much in the 21st century Western world.
Clinton performed some very dirty business in the Middle East when he was in office. In the mid-90s, a cabal of Iraqi top military brass contacted his administration and asked for his help in overthrowing Sadam and installing a military government. In return, America would have received military bases in Iraq along with good breaks on oil prices. What did Clinton do? He ignored them. Had he accepted, thousands of American and Iraqi lives could have been saved and we would have had a greater foothold in the Middle East.
During that same period, a military junta in Syria asked Clinton's help in overthrowing Assad. They promised America,not only good oil prices, but a complete social reform including equal rights for women. Clinton informed Assad of the plot and all the generals who had trusted Clinton to be a mentsch were killed by Assad. What good did it do America? Syria hates America. Such is Bill Clinton - who forced Israel out of the protective zone in southern Lebanon. He is a maggot. Hillary is only the maggot's wife.

We Forget What It Was Really Like Under the Clintons

We Forget What It Was Really Like Under the Clintons
By David Morris, AlterNet
Posted on January 7, 2008, Printed on January 7, 2008
Twelve days before the Iowa caucuses, the New York Times Magazine cover, in large white letters on a deep black background, carried the single word title of its lead article: Clintonism. In the article Matt Bai, the Times reporter on all things Democratic, with a big D, made one undeniable assertion and two highly debatable ones.
Bai's contention that Bill Clinton's "wife's fortunes are bound up with his, and vice versa" is incontestable. The primaries and even more so the general election, if Hillary is the nominee, will be a referendum less on Hillary than on Clintonism, the philosophy and strategy that guided the White House for eight years. Hillary clearly welcomes such a prospect, as demonstrated by her constantly reminding voters that she was "deeply involved in being part of the Clinton team."
Bai's much more problematic assertions involve his evaluation of the nature and impact of Clintonism. Bai begins by mocking "Clinton's critics on the left" for displaying "a stunning lack of historical perspective." Yet it is Bai, who demonstrates a remarkable lack of historical knowledge, a dangerous shortcoming for a reporter with his portfolio.
The most glaring example is Bai's bizarre assertion that Clinton "almost single-handedly pulled the Democratic Party back from its slide into irrelevance." The historical fact is that when Clinton took office, the Democratic Party controlled both houses of Congress and a majority of state governorships. By the time he left office, the Republicans controlled both Houses of Congress and two-thirds of the governorships. By the numbers, it was Clintonism that relegated the Democratic Party to the shadows.
Bai's other dubious assertions is that Clintonism was good not only for the Democratic Party but for the nation as well. He applauds Clinton's "courage, at the end of the Reagan era, to argue inside the Democratic Party that the liberal orthodoxies of the New Deal and the Great Society, as well as the culture of the anti-war and civil rights movements, had become excessive and inflexible. Not only were Democratic attitudes toward government electorally problematic, Clinton argued; they were just plain wrong for the time."
But then, astonishingly, in his 7,000-word piece, Bai does not describe the many legislative initiatives Clinton undertook to reverse the New Deal and the Great Society.
Clinton himself summed up the principle guiding his initiatives in his famous declaration, "The era of big government is over."
The Telecommunications Act of 1996 was the first major overhaul of United States telecommunications law in nearly 62 years. The broadcasting industry couldn't get the legislation through under Reagan or George H.W. Bush, but it succeeded under Clinton. The day he signed the bill into law, Clinton boasted, "Landmark legislation fulfills my administration's promise to reform our telecommunications laws in a manner that leads to competition and private investment, promotes universal service and provides for flexible government regulation."
The Act removed the legal barriers to local and long distance phone companies acquiring each other. The results were immediate and massive. In 1996 there were eight major U.S. companies providing local telephone service and five significant long-distance companies. By 1999, these 13 companies had merged into five telecommunications giants, in a series of record-breaking merger deals.
Prior to this law, tightly regulated broadcasters could own just 40 stations nationally, and only two in a given market. Suddenly, without the FCC's input or any public hearings, ownership limits on radio stations was eliminated and a feeding frenzy took place.
By 2001, there were 10,000 radio station transactions worth approximately $100 billion. As a result, 1,100 fewer station owners were in the business, down nearly 30 percent since 1996. Two companies -- Clear Channel and Viacom's Infinity Broadcasting -- controlled one-third of all radio advertising revenue; in some individual markets their stations commanded nearly 90 percent of the ad dollars. Clear Channel alone owned nearly 1,200 stations, the result of buying up 70 separate broadcast companies.
In 1999, the Financial Services Modernization Act overturned the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933. The Act effectively barred banks, brokerages and insurance companies from entering each others' industries, and separated investment banking and commercial banking. The law was enacted in response to revelations of gross corruption and manipulation of the market by giant banking houses that organized huge corporate mergers for their own profit, leading to the collapse of the stock market in 1929.
The Wall Street Journal celebrated the agreement to end such restrictions with an editorial declaring that the banks had been unfairly scapegoated for the Great Depression. The headline of one Journal article declared, "Finally, 1929 Begins to Fade."
The unleashed and deregulated financial services sector boomed, bringing us the speculative boom that in turn gave us the temporary budget surplus of the late 1990s and the finance-led booms and busts since then. The hedge fund was not invented in the 1990s, but it was under Clinton that they were transformed into their modern form, with the Clinton White House cheerleading that transformation. In 1998, when the hedge fund, Long Term Capital Management, collapsed, leading to federal intervention, the president established the Working Group on Financial Markets. In February 2000, it concluded that hedge funds needed no regulation.
Clintonism never saw a sector it didn't want to deregulate. Wholesale electricity deregulation began under George H.W. Bush, but Clinton worked relentlessly to extend it and bring it to the retail level. We forget that Ken Lay, the founder of Enron and the driving force behind electricity deregulation was a friend of and mentor to Clinton as well as George W. Bush. Enron gave $420,000 to Clinton's party over three years and donated $100,000 to his inauguration festivities.
Clinton's appointees on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) aggressively deregulated the electric grid system, even refusing to step in when Enron and other electricity traders' manipulation of prices drove California to the edge of bankruptcy.
And then there was welfare reform. During his 1992 presidential campaign, Clinton promised to "end welfare as we know it." Four years later he proudly pushed through the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, which, for the first time in 60 years, eliminated the federal safety net for the poor. The legislation set work requirements for most welfare recipients and limited the length of time they could collect assistance.
The economic bubble of the late 1990s hid the impacts of this legislation during its first five years. But even then, the studies were mixed. A 2002 report by the Chicago, Ill.-based Joyce Foundation found that while hundreds of thousands of welfare recipients in the Midwest went to work since 1996, most had "taken jobs that pay low wages, are part-time, or don't last ... As a result, most of those who have made the transition from welfare to work remain poor."
Wendell Primus, an outspoken critic of the original legislation, resigned from the Clinton administration over welfare reform. A few years later he maintained that "while many families had earnings gains under welfare reform, a significant number would have done better without welfare reform under the expanding economy of the 1990s." Noting that the rates of child poverty dropped more in the 1992-1996, pre-welfare-reform period, than they did in the post-reform period, from 1996-2000, Primus said, "In the aggregate, there is absolutely no evidence that it (reform legislation) increased household income."
There is no question that welfare reform has succeeded in reducing welfare rolls in the states. But 10 years into welfare reform, "the number of people living in poverty had not," noted Robert Wharton, president and CEO of the Community Economic Development Administration. "At the same time, the safety net of services and support that once protected the poor lies in tatters."
The law also led to the privatization of welfare systems in many parts of the country. And an unfamiliar provision of the law called "charitable choice" allowed religious organizations to receive government funding for providing certain welfare-related services. The month he took office, January 2001, George W. Bush's faith-based initiative opened the doors to religious organizations to get government grants to provide services previously made available by government agencies.
And of course there is NAFTA, a key piece of legislation that Bai mentions only in passing. In retrospect, we can view it as a simple extension of Clintonism's obsession with deregulation, in this case deregulating trade and borders.
NAFTA was enacted despite the opposition of Clinton's own party. Two-thirds of House Republicans voted in favor while 60 percent of House Democrats voted against. In the Senate, Republicans voted 4-1 in favor while a slim majority of Democrats voted against.
I discussed the impact of NAFTA 10 years after in an earlier AlterNet piece. The slogan of those who championed a North American Free Trade Agreement was, "Trade, not aid." NAFTA would solve our problems, the White House insisted, with little or no transfer of funds from richer Canadians and Americans to poorer Mexicans. By raising Mexican living standards and wage levels, Attorney General Janet Reno predicted NAFTA would reduce illegal immigration by up to two-thirds in six years. "NAFTA is our best hope for reducing illegal migration in the long haul," Reno declared in 1994. "If it fails, effective immigration control will become impossible."
NAFTA did what it was intended to do. Trade volume soared, from about 30 percent of Mexico's Gross Domestic Product in 1990, to about 55 percent in 2005. Foreign investment increased by over 225 percent. Free trade theory teaches that these achievements should have led to universal prosperity. In the real world, opening up the borders between two exceedingly disparate economies leads to disaster.
Which is what happened here. Real wages for most Mexicans are lower than when NAFTA took effect. And Mexican wages are diverging from, rather than converging with U.S. wages, despite the fact that Mexican worker productivity has increased dramatically. From 1993 to 2003, worker productivity rose by 60 percent. In the same period, real wages declined by 5 percent.
As NAFTA intended, Mexico became an export-dependent economy. But this has not benefited most Mexicans. Sandra Polaski of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace points out that Mexican manufacturing is increasingly based on a production model in which component parts are imported, then processed or assembled and then re-exported. In the maquiladora sector, which accounts for most exports, 97 percent of components are imported; only 3 percent are produced in Mexico. The spillover effect of such operations on the broader economy is very limited.
The only thing that saved Mexico from collapsing into economic and social chaos was the massive emigration of Mexicans across their northern border.
Illegal migration has camouflaged Mexico's economic weakness. Between 1994 and 2004, Mexico's working-age population increased by a little over 1 million per year, but the number of jobs expanded by only half as much. The annual exodus of 500,000 to 1 million Mexicans kept unemployment at least to manageable levels.
Migration has served another even more important salutary function: national financial safety net. In 2005, Mexicans in the United States remitted some $20 billion home, about 3 percent of Mexico's national income. Remittances now exceed tourism, and the maquiladoras, and until the recent runup in oil prices, even oil as the country's top single source of foreign exchange. It turns out that it is aid, not trade, that is keeping the Mexican economy afloat.
NAFTA's designers promised it would keep Mexicans at home. Yet its very objectives undermined that possibility and spawned the waves of illegal migrants that have become one of the most divisive issues in the 2008 campaign.
And then there is healthcare, an issue that Bai did comment on. History has been rewritten in regard to the Clintons' health initiative. Today it is viewed as a bold but failed effort. Even Michael Moore's movie, Sicko, paints this picture. Nonsense. It was Hillary who concluded that it was politically impossible even to argue for a single-payer system. Whether a single payer initiative would have won is unclear, although the national educational effort around it would have been of unparalleled value. But as it was, Hillary's political miscalculation led not only to the idea of universal health care coverage being taken off the table for the next 13 years, but the loss of the House of Representatives and the coming to power of Newt Gingrich and the Republican right.
Matt Bai views Bill Clinton as a profile in courage for taking on the Democratic Party. But if we review his behavior in office, there is one characteristic that stands out above any other: cowardice. Whenever the powerful objected, he beat a hasty retreat. His first year set the pattern. Gays in the military. The btu tax. The jettisoning of Lani Guinier as nominee for assistant attorney general for civil rights, refusing even to allow her to confront her critics.
Bai quotes Jonathan Cowan, of the Third Way, "the next iteration of the D.L.C." As Bai approvingly describes it, "Clinton's politics have basically become the DNA of Democrats seeking the White House, and it's almost certain that they would all govern from that Clintonian center if they actually became president."

Taxes Review: This is sobering!

The next time you hear a politician use the word 'billion' in a casual manner, think about whether you want the 'politicians' spending YOUR tax money.

A billion is a difficult number to comprehend, but one advertising agency did a good job of putting that figure into some perspective in one of its releases.
A. A billion seconds ago it was 1959.
B. A billion minutes ago Jesus was alive.
C. A billion hours ago our ancestors were living in the Stone Age.
D. A billion days ago no-one walked on the earth on two feet.
E. A billion dollars ago was only 8 hours and 20 minutes, at the rate our government is spending it.

While this thought is still fresh in our brain, let's take a look at New Orleans It's amazing what you can learn with some simple division.

Louisiana Senator, Mary Landrieu (D), is presently asking the Congress for $250 BILLION to rebuild New Orleans. Interesting number, what does it mean?
A. Well, if you are one of 484,674 residents of New Orleans (every man, woman, child), you each get $516,528.
B. Or, if you have one of the 188,251 homes in New Orleans , your home gets $1,329,787.
C. Or, if you are a family of four, your family gets $2,066,012.
Washington , D.C .. HELLO!!! ... Are all your calculators broken??

Consider all the many taxes we are liable for through a life-time....
Building Permit Tax
CDL License Tax
Cigarette Tax
Corporate Income Tax
Dog License Tax
Federal Income Tax
Federal Unemployment Tax (FUTA)
Fishing License Tax
Food License Tax
Gasoline Tax
Hunting License Tax
Inheritance Tax
Inventory Tax
IRS Interest Charges (tax on top of tax), IRS Penalties (tax on top of tax), Liquor Tax, Luxury Tax, Marriage License Tax, Medicare Tax, Property Tax, Real Estate Tax, Service charge taxes, Social Security Tax, Road Usage Tax (Truckers), Sales Taxes, Recreational Vehicle Tax, School Tax, State Income Tax, State Unemployment Tax (SUTA), Telephone Federal Excise Tax, Telephone Federal Universal Service Fe e Tax, Telephone Federal, State and Local Surcharge Tax, Telephone Minimum Usage Surcharge Tax, Telephone Recurring and Non-recurring Charges Tax, Telephone State and Local Tax, Telephone Usage Charge Tax, Utility Tax, Vehicle License Registration Tax, Vehicle Sales Tax, Watercraft Registration Tax, Well Permit Tax, Workers Compensation Tax.

STILL THINK THIS IS FUNNY? Not one of these taxes existed 100 years ago, and our nation was the most prosperous in the world. We had absolutely no national debt, had the largest middle class in the world, and Mom stayed home to raise the kids.

What happened? Can you spell 'politicians!' And I still have to 'press 1' for English. I hope this goes around the USA at least 100 times. What the heck happened?

P.S., Well, one thing that happened is: We elected every one of those politicians, so WE voters carry much of the responsibility for this mess.