Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Two Bulls in a China Shop

AP:US-Iranian tensions could trigger war
As the rhetoric grows more strident, a U.S. military official in the Gulf likened the U.S.-Iran standoff to the buildup in hostility in Europe before World War I, when the assassination of the heir to the Austrian throne triggered a tragic war that engulfed a continent.

"A mistake could be made and you could end up in something that neither side ever really wanted, and suddenly it's August 1914 all over again," the U.S. officer said on condition of anonymity, because of the sensitivity of the issue. "I really believe neither side wants a fight."

Wouldn't that be exciting....

Without a clue

Chicago Tribune:Bush in Illinois to tout Policies

EAST PEORIA, Ill. -- President Bush plugged his economic policies Tuesday, telling an audience at Caterpillar Inc.'s manufacturing plant that his administration's actions played a role in helping Caterpillar achieve its three-year string of record earnings.

....."In this company," Bush told a crowd of about 400 Caterpillar employees and local officials, "you've shown how to compete in a global economy."

Caterpillar has long been known for its organizational and logistical prowess in support of its far-flung operations. However, it was not always as lean and efficient as it has become over the past decade. In the early 1990s Caterpillar endured a series of lengthy and bitter strikes by the United Auto Workers union, as it sought to rein in wages and benefits.

The company eventually prevailed, and for more than a decade has experienced labor peace with the UAW. The Peoria-based company employs about 17,000 people in the local area, but its production workforce is smaller than it once was, thanks in part to the company's expansion of production in Asia and Europe. A residue of bitterness over those strikes still lingers among former workers for the town's leading employer.

......Caterpillar is a major exporter, and it also produces products in foreign markets for sale in those regions. But it was apparent when Bush spoke that the rank-and-file workers remain unconvinced on the issue.

When Bush told the crowd, "We don't need more taxes," he drew a big round of applause. But the group failed to respond with similar warmth when he told the workers that "the temptation is to say: `Let's protect ourselves. Let's isolate ourselves.'"

Gee, I wonder why they're skeptical. After Cat's egregious Union busting in the nineties followed up by job, wage and benefit cuts it's not much of a surprise they aren't cheering the company's record profits. That Bush thought that this was the crowd to get footage of workers clapping in response to his free trade gospel is a sign of how completely disconnected from real life he is.

Monday, January 29, 2007

More fun in International relations

StrategyPade:Coping With The Starving Masses
January 26, 2007: While China is shipping the same amount of oil to North Korea, in 2006, as it did in 2005, food exports are down by about half (some 210,000 tons less). A lot less food is getting into North Korea, and because last years crops were below average, the population is expected to come through this Winter in very bad shape. Planners in South Korea now fear a flood of three million starving refugees (headed into China and South Korea), if the North Korean government collapses in the near future. Plans are being made on how to deal with such large numbers of malnourished refugees.
January 22, 2007: In response to U.S. accusations, the UN has halted transfers of hard currency to North Korea, and begun an audit of how UN aid money is spent in North Korea........
January 21, 2007: South Korean and American commanders are beginning to make plans for the possible collapse of the North Korean government. There is increasing Chinese diplomatic and political activity inside North Korea, and many rumors that officers from the North Korean security forces, backed by China, are plotting to overthrow the government. Interestingly, even with all these stories going around, there have been no arrests in the north. There is, however, a growing unease on the streets, among the North Korean people......

Even in North Korea implodes relatively peacefully, dealing with refugee flows (not to mention trying to make sure bad stuff doesn't leave the country) is going to be a massive undertaking. If Kim goes for broke and attacks South Korea or if the country falls into Civil war then it will be a foreign policy and military crisis. The South Koreans and the Forces in Theater can probably stop the Norks but there isn't much of calvary to ride over the horizon. Dealing with a counter-insurgency does not prepare troops or their leaders for more conventional warfare as Israel learned to its detriment in Lebanon.

Things that make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside

Tribune-Star:County has one of state’s highest hazardous material concentrations

Organizer Gordon Pleus said, “The county of Vigo and the City of Terre Haute have many hazardous-material facilities. If they had the worst incident that could happen, we’d have a kill zone of miles.”

Vigo County has one of Indiana’s highest concentrations of hazardous materials, Pleus added.

As Terre Haute is a transportation hub for both rail and roadway, Pleus says emergency responders need to be prepared.

“There’s some really nasty stuff coming through the city, and we need to be prepared for it,” Pleus said. “It’s very important for [HazMat responders] to know how to protect themselves, because if they can’t protect themselves, they can’t take care of members of the public.”

"A kill zone of miles", it's one of the many special things about living in the armpit of the nation.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Brownback zigs where the others zag

TNR's Plank:What is Brownback up to?
Probably the most interesting surge-related development on the right comes courtesy of Sam Brownback. Brownback, you'll recall, is the evangelical-cum-Catholic angling to become the conservative alternative to John McCain. Up until the last few months, he was a pretty reliable supporter of the war in Iraq. But he's since concluded that the war has taken a disastrous turn, and he's become more and more willing to call the administration on it. This all culminated with this week's statement that, "I do not believe that sending more troops to Iraq is the answer. ... Iraq requires a political rather than a military solution."
More interestingly, the move turns out to be pretty welcome among Brownback's desired base of social conservatives. While 52 percent of Republicans support the surge according to a just-released AP/Ipsos poll, some 60 percent of white evangelicals oppose it, as do 56 percent of self-described conservatives. So we're actually talking about a twofer here: shore up your base while positioning yourself to poach votes from the other guys. (Actually, a three-fer, since this has the added merit of being the substantively sane position.) Not bad for a day's work.

If the surge works out poorly Brownback may move up in the rankings. The only thing is this helps Brownback with his natural base, but hurts him a little with the rest of the party. Best thing that could happen to energize his base would be a Supreme Court retirement.

A half hearted pursuit of a half-witted goal

Washington Times: In limbo on Iraq
The president's argument fails to convince me that the effort required to secure Baghdad, which comes down to American troops quashing sectarian street violence, is worth the price. It's hard to imagine that an increased American presence, which is necessarily temporary, will win more than a pause in the violence, which goes back centuries. But I'm also unconvinced that the mission itself is of strategic value to the United States. My great concern, as I have written before, is that it's very possible that renewed American fighting in Baghdad, if successful -- which, as Americans, we must hope it to be -- will not only stabilize the chaotic capital of Iraq, but will also entrench its Shi'ite-led, pro-Hezbollah, anti-Western government. This suggests that victory in Iraq may deliver not a new brother for the anti-terror coalition, but rather a perfect ally for Iran. And what kind of American victory is that?
.........For example, if, as al Qaeda claims, there are some 12,000 al Qaeda terrorists in Iraq, it is obviously a mission of strategic value to the United States to eliminate them, and to do so with as little loss of American life as possible.
This would likely require U.S. air attacks and such attacks would likely entail Iraqi civilian casualties. Just the thought of such casualties seems to render such a mission unthinkable to both Bush opponents and the Bush team, which now presides, for example, over a recurring battle for Baghdad's Haifa Street, where enemy fighters keep returning to fire at American and Iraqi troops from positions in high-rise buildings. Is it just me, or does anyone ever wonder why, if pacifying Baghdad is so darn vital, those buildings are still standing?
It is the great irony of our time that even as our stone-age enemies seek to inflict as many civilian casualties as possible, we in the postmodern West seek to inflict none. Which is extremely nice, but what is it they say about nice guys? And how nice, really, is it? Citizens of the 21st century, we pat ourselves on the back for an elevated morality even as we expect our brave volunteers to risk life and limb to protect both ourselves and, in effect, our enemies also. This does nothing but prolong the state of war and the suffering that goes with it, which is surely neither nice, nor morally uplifting. Maybe such a mindset is relatively new to the American identity, but the limbo of unresolved conflict it consigns us to promises to be with us for a long time.

That Crazy Duck!

CNN:Plucky Duck Survives Another Brush With Death

Perky is one tough bird.

The ring-neck duck survived being shot and spending two days in a hunter's refrigerator -- and now she's had a close brush with death on a veterinarian's operating table.

The one-pound female duck stopped breathing Saturday during surgery to repair gunshot damage to one wing, said Noni Beck of the Goose Creek Wildlife Sanctuary.

Veterinarian David Hale revived the bird after several tense moments by performing CPR.

"I started crying, 'She's alive!"' Beck said.

Perky entered the headlines last week after a hunter's wife opened her refrigerator door and the should've-been-dead duck lifted its head and looked at her. The bird had been in the fridge for two days since being shot and presumed killed January 15.

But was the hunter's name Elmer?

Eating the Seed Corn

Fleet Owner:GM Considers selling Allison

General Motors (GM) yesterday announced it is considering selling its lucrative Allison Transmission business. The divesture would dispose of an operation “not central to GM’s mission of designing, manufacturing and selling cars and light trucks globally,” said the OEM.

Allison is considered a dominant player in the transmissions market for heavy- and medium-duty trucks, according to investment banking firm Bear Stearns. Allison should be an attractive asset for bidders, Bear Stearns said.

Headquartered in Indianapolis, Allison employs 3,400 persons and has seven plants. It sells automatic and powershift transmissions and provides product parts and support through a worldwide distribution network and offices in North America, South America, Europe, Africa and Asia.

An Allison acquisition would have some strategic potential for ZF, Eaton or Volvo, Bear Stearns said. But it considers International the “best likely fit” considering that OEM’s core offerings and competencies.

GM keeps selling its profitable assets to prop up its unprofitable car business. That seems short sighted to me. The car business, even if they do everything right (which is a Texas sized "if") is going to shrink as more competitors enter the market and GM abandons segments they are losing money in. The car business is always going to cyclical as well. Having a solid revenue and profit flow over the long haul seems like a good thing to me, probably a better thing than a few hundred million more to throw at the car business today.

Interpreting the Times

Mark Shea explains why he is skeptical of the triumph of Islam in Europe

Beyond this however, I have to say that in a certain sense, I'm not particularly addressing America's relationship with the Islamic world at all. That's because, as I said, I don't think the Story is about America (or Islam for that matter). I think it's about Christ and the Church. For me, things matter as they are related to that central drama. One of the patterns I note in the biblical revelation of Christ's Church is the pattern I described yesterday: that the Assyrian is ultimately a rod in the hand of God. He may think he's calling the shots, but actually it's God. So I think the wise approach is to "seek first His Kingdon and His righteousness" rather than spend the bulk of our energy looking for ways to hold on to our sin while still cleverly manipulating politics, science, technology, etc. in order to stave off the consequences of our rejection of God. It seems obvious to me that the post-Christian West is deeply engaged in the latter process and that the result will simply be to make our final self-inflicted judgement (all such dooms are self-inflicted) more complicated and terrible.

However, I also believe that God is rich in mercy and that repentence is possible at any time. I have no particular crystal ball that allows me to see the future with respect to Islam and the West. But we do have a bit of revelation concerning the Church and it gives me hope. I am not as confident as some of my readers that the world is doomed to an Islamic future in saecula saeculorum. That is not to say it is not a source of great evil. It is simply to say that I'm not ready to simply throw in the sponge and say the power of the Christ who conquers death is helpless against the onslaught of Islam. Part of my reason for thinking this is theological: Islam does not seem to me to fit the bill for the final apostasy and the nature of Antichrist. We are, to be sure, absolutely guaranteed that the Church faces a "final trial that will shake the faith of many believers. The persecution that accompanies her pilgrimage on earth will unveil the "mystery of iniquity" in the form of a religious deception offering men an apparent solution to their problems at the price of apostasy from the truth. The supreme religious deception is that of the Antichrist, a pseudo-messianism by which man glorifies himself in place of God and of his Messiah come in the flesh." (CCC 675).

The question I find myself asking, in light of biblical revelation, is this: which side of the conflict between the post-Christian West and the Foaming Bronze Age Fanatic Islamosphere is far more likely to give us "the lawless one ... the one doomed to perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god and object of worship, so as to seat himself in the temple of God, claiming that he is a god" (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4). Say what you will about Islam, but I don't see it producing that figure in a million years, whereas the West is ripe to give birth to him right now.

That's not to say I *prefer* the Foaming Bronze Age Thugs to win. It's to say that, in my heart, I cannot believe that they will. I think Scripture is true and that the coming of Christ will take place in a world that is apostate and (mark this) seriously ready to deify man, not in a world that never heard the gospel and which regards the deification of man with horror. That description fits the decadent West a lot better than than the Islamic East, so I retain a confidence, if you can call it that, that the winners of this particular "civilizational struggle" will be the post-Christian West, whose cultural and technological masters are laboring even now to create fresh sins that cry out to heaven and terrors that will dwarf Islam's crimes as continue on our post-Christian path toward "the supreme religious deception ... of the Antichrist, a pseudo-messianism by which man glorifies himself in place of God and of his Messiah come in the flesh."

When that will come, we don't know. *That* it will come is guaranteed by the word of God. And for my money, it seems much more like to come from a Decadent West triumphant over Islam than from Radical Islam triumphant over the West.

There is a lot to like in this passage. The flaw I see with that reasoning is that it assumes that the return of Christ will happen in the near future and so attempts to predict the near term future events based on that framework. I don't know how many Hal Lindsey books I read in the 80's that had all manner of predictions of what the awful Soviets would do. Then I remember reading a book from the 1920's claiming Jews were in the midst of procuring the components for the temple. And who can forget 88 reasons? Today we have Tim LaHaye and his imitators, all of whom try to adapt a particular eschatology to the World of Today and come up with a line from here to there.

Part of this is the belief that these momentous events must be happening in our Generation. This has gone into overdrive since the creation (re-creation?) of the State of Israel.

For all we know, Europe may well be overcome by a demographic tide and be Muslim dominated for a century, or even a millenium, before being won back. Maybe by the the Christians of the developing world (hey, the meek will inherit the Earth after all). Maybe Ralph Peters is right and Islam in Europe will be the target of a horrific purge. I don't know.

A lot of the passages that are quoted so confidently in setting timelines and predicting events are not only separted from us by language, time, and culture, and in a difficult genre (prophecy) but are written to some extent in code. John was trying not to sell out his fellow believers and make it past the Roman censors (he was on a Roman Prison island) in the Book of Revelation. Daniel was in the service of pagan, if God fearing king, and surrounded by palace intrigue. Both were writing Truth, but confidently interpreting the "real meaning for today" can get you in trouble. It's sort of like going to an Opera with your Berlitz dictionary and trying to write a detailed explanation of what happened, you're going to look stupid.

Shea is absolutely not even close to the extremes on this (He has plenty of caveats), but I just get nervous when we try to make predictions or guesses about the future. Of course on the other extreme, you could say "“Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” The purpose of eschatology is to focus the mind of the Church on her coming Lord, not to give her a leg up on CNN.

The Danger of Being Self-Educated

J.M. Cotzee reviews Norman Mailer's The Castle in the Forest and reviews Hitler's intellectual life as a young adult:
Hitler may not have been much of an artist (he always had trouble with the human figure—a telling weakness), but there is no denying that, at least in his early years, he was an intellectual of sorts. He read incessantly (though only what he liked), he was interested in ideas (though only in ideas that fitted his preconceptions) and believed in their power, he involved himself in the arts (though his tastes were unshakably provincial and prematurely conservative).

From the wealth of new ideas to which he was exposed, he made a selection which he cobbled together to compose the philosophy of National Socialism. The pseudo-anthropology of Guido von List made a deep impression on him. List divided mankind into an Aryan master race, originating in the northernmost fastnesses of Europe, and a race of slaves with whom the Aryans had regrettably miscegenated over the centuries. He urged the recovery of the pure Aryan blood-line by strict sexual segregation from the slave race, via the creation of a state comprising Aryan masters and non-Aryan slaves ruled over by a F├╝hrer who would be above the law.

Another of the charlatans under whose influence Hitler fell was Lanz von Liebenfels, founder of the Order of the New Templars and publisher of the magazine Ostara, of which he was an avid reader. Liebenfels was an extreme misogynist who saw women as lower beings attracted by their nature to "primitive-sensual dark men of inferior races." What Hitler knew of racial science and eugenics, and later imported into National Socialist policy, came not from scientific reading but filtered through popularizers and vulgarizers like Liebenfels.

All in all, the adventures of Adolf Hitler in the realm of ideas provide a cautionary tale against letting an impressionable young person loose to pursue his or her education in a state of total freedom. For seven years Hitler lived in a great European city in a time of ferment from which emerged some of the most exciting, most revolutionary thought of the new century. With an unerring eye he picked out not the best but the worst of the ideas around him. Because he was never a student, with lectures to attend and reading lists to follow and fellow students to argue with and assignments to complete and examinations to sit, the half-baked ideas he made his own were never properly challenged. The people he associated with were as ill-educated, volatile, and undisciplined as himself. No one in his circle had the intellectual command to put his chosen authorities in their place as what they were: disreputable and even comical mountebanks.

Today we have information everywhere. Much of it conveniently sorted by Ideological bent. It is easy to find scholarly (or pseudo-scholarly) articles online that will conclusively state the viewpoint you believe....with footnotes! Perhaps this follows from Postmodernism's exaltation of the subjective. Perhaps it is the lowered barriers between the author and print. Now I don't have to have the money to pat for a press run or to be able to convince a skeptical publisher in order to put my ideas out there for all the world to see.

And there are people reading these ideas, many will glom onto the good, some will attach to the bad. Millions of souls ingesting from their own reading list becoming ever more convinced of their side's rightness and everyone else's insanity. Where will they take us?

Friday, January 26, 2007

'bout Time

CNN Political Ticker: Huckabee to file exploratory committee next week
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee will form a presidential exploratory committee "early next week, as early as Monday," an initial step in a bid for the 2008 GOP presidential nomination, a Huckabee advisor tells CNN.

Huckabee's my favorite right now on the Republican side, but he faces long odds.

McCain is the "inevitable" candidate on the Republican side right now. McCain has laid the groundwork for several years (I suspect that McCain-Feingold stifling the Colorado Springs contingent was a feature, not a bug), but I just have a hard time imagining him being nominated unless all hope is gone for a Republican victory (see Dole, Bob). He missed his chance in 2000. He would be 72 when he took the oath, 76 if he won a 2nd term, and 80 when he would be campaigning with the follow on Republican candidate. That'd be almost as short sighted as embarking on a nation-building project in the Middle East.

No one has really latched onto the outsider/anti-McCain mantle yet, but there's a lot of dogs in the hunt. All have their issues, but several have been organization building quite some time. With the amounts the frontrunners are going to extort (see the grumbling about Hillary's fundraising) It's going to be a hard slog for an outsider to raise money from the leftovers.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

A Poison Pill for your Health!

Mahablog:Health Care and Poison Pills
Awhile back Harold Meyerson wrote a column called “Master of the Poison Pill” in which he outlined the Karl Rove method of taking an issue away from the opposition. For example, in 2002 the Dems were getting traction on their proposal for a cabinet-level Department of Homeland Security, which the White House opposed. When the Bushies decided to flip-flop and create the DHS, they inserted a union-busting poison pill into the bill. Dems balked, and the Bushies promptly claimed the DHS as their own invention, accusing Dems of being opposed to national security.

Sometimes it’s more than just a pill being used to poison a debate. Wingnuts still equate opposition to the war in Iraq with being “soft” on national security, even though Iraq ain’t doin’ a bleeping thing on behalf of national security except draining resources that could be put to better use elsewhere while causing more people to hate us. The Bushies tried to pull something like this with Bush’s Social Security “reform”; Dems were accused of being unwilling to “fix” Social Security because they didn’t back Bush’s plan. Fortunately the American people realized the “plan” was ridiculous.

I’m already seeing signs that the Right is going to use Bush’s utterly absurd health care proposals to claim that Democrats aren’t serious about health care reform. There are two columns in the Washington Post today that say Dems are poopyheads for not even listening to Bush’s “ideas.”

The President's plan punishes people with good coverage and does nothing for most people without coverage. Mainly it appears to be another play to give away money to the well off (who would benefit from a $15000 non-refundable deduction and could afford a crappy Insurance In Name Only high deductible low premium plan)

The Great Salami predicts:

Ezra Klein comments on the State of the Union Address and adds this bit about the Democratic Response by Freshman Senator Jim Webb from Virginia
Webb's response, in contrast, was strong, clear and just. His voice vibrated with outrage and urgency, and his speech laid out Democratic principles with a confident, spare, eloquence. By far the best SOTU response I've seen. I should note, as an interesting aside, that I spent a few minutes chatting with Webb earlier in the day, and he seemed perfectly at ease. Not a hint of anxiety in the freshman senator about to give a nationally televised response on behalf of his entire party. It struck me as vaguely odd at the time, but perfectly appropriate given the quality of his performance. Webb's appeal, I think, comes from his obvious and genuine conviction. He does have an ideology, and it makes him a far more compelling messenger than the technocrats and establishmentarians Democrats tend to rely on.

If by some miracle McCain does win the Nomination and the Presidency in 2008, I am picking Jim Webb as the Democratic Party Presidential nominee in 2012. If it's not him, it'll be a Southern Governor. You heard it here first. EDIT:Jonathan Alter at Newsweek gushes about Webb as well, though he downplays Webb's White House appeal.

The Evangelical Choice?

Some interesting statistics from Christianity Today
41% White evangelicals who say they are unhappy that the Democrats won the midterm election.
41% White evangelicals who say they are happy that the Democrats won.

Who'd a thunk it? Evangelicals look a lot like the rest of the Country did in 2000 and 2004, split down the middle. So the question is is this a lagging indicator of the political mood of the country or are we seeing a new equilibrium?

More interesting numbers:
50% Black Protestants who say their churches offered election materials.
30% White evangelicals who reported this.

Believe it or not most White Evangelical churches are fairly apolitical (if you think Dobson is hard on politicans, you ought to hear him talk about pastors)

Monday, January 22, 2007

How Big Business Breeds Populists

Bloomberg: Worker Ire Grows, GDP Share Shrinks as Profits Boom via The Big Picture
Jan. 19 (Bloomberg) -- Missile assembler Thomas Tanzillo dipped into retirement savings and worked a temporary job to support his family during a 70-day strike at Raytheon Co.'s Tucson, Arizona, plant. He may need years to recover.

His union on Jan. 14 accepted a three-year contract almost identical to the one that sparked the strike: 3 percent annual raises and higher health-care premiums. The deal came after Raytheon posted eight straight quarters of profit growth and awarded missile unit President Louise Francesconi a 19 percent raise to $1.7 million -- including restricted stock -- in 2005.

The Tucson settlement shows how workers are struggling to keep pace with growing U.S. economic wealth. Company profits as a percentage of gross domestic product are at a 40-year high, rising to 12 percent in the third quarter from 7 percent five years ago. Wages and salaries fell to 45 percent from 49 percent, government data show. Workers like Tanzillo are bitter.

``We don't mind making concessions if the company goes through a few lean years, but now that we're back to the boom years, they're not sharing,'' Tanzillo, 56, says.

``This is one of the many battles to come in the war on the middle class,'' Martinez says. ``Companies like Raytheon are focusing on making money at any cost, instead of looking at the common good of a community.''

Almost three-quarters of Americans believe the growing gap between the rich and the poor is a serious concern, according to a Bloomberg/Los Angeles Times poll in December.

The GDP gap is widening even though wage gains began to pick up late last year. It wasn't until September that average hourly wages surpassed the year-end 2001 rate, adjusted for inflation, according to U.S. Labor Department data.

Average hourly earnings rose 1.7 percent in 2006 on an inflation-adjusted basis, the department says.

U.S. workers are only beginning to recover lost ground. After inflation, median family income of $56,643 hasn't grown since 2001, says economist Jared Bernstein of the Washington- based Economic Policy Institute, which is funded by foundations, companies and labor unions.

``The typical family could end this recovery behind where they started,'' Bernstein says. ``That's a hell of an indictment given how much income we've created.''

The U.S. economy is expanding steadily, with GDP forecast to rise 2.5 percent this year, according to a January Bloomberg News survey of economists. Yet that wealth hasn't translated into greater prosperity for many Americans.

Companies such as Waltham, Massachusetts-based Raytheon, drugmaker Eli Lilly & Co., Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. and United Parcel Service Inc. have ratcheted up profits while containing wages and benefits like hawks since the recovery began in late 2001.

Unlike earlier expansions, more profit is going to shareholders in the form of stock buybacks than is being earmarked for capital expenditures and wage growth.

S&P 500 companies have reported four consecutive years of profit gains, with operating earnings rising 13 percent in 2005, 24 percent in 2004, and 19 percent in both 2003 and 2002, Silverblatt says.

S&P estimates that operating profits rose 15 percent last year and will come in about 10 percent higher this year.

U.S. managers, taking advantage of new technologies and emerging economies, can better connect low-cost sources of production with buyers in affluent markets. The wage competition -- which Morgan Stanley chief economist Stephen Roach calls global labor arbitrage -- keeps many U.S. workers' pay in check, stretches their hours and shifts more benefits costs from companies to employees.

``The advent of the Asian workforce has maybe changed labor economics in the long term,'' United Technologies Corp. Chief Executive Officer George David says.
Many employers are increasing productivity at workers' expense, says Eric Kingsley, an Encino, California, labor lawyer who wasn't involved in the UPS lawsuit.

``The 40-hour week has been completely obliterated,'' Kingsley says.
Rising health costs also weigh on workers and retirees. The contract requires hourly workers to pay at least 88 percent more for health insurance over three years, including 19 percent in the first year......

Bush is leading the Republican party to a political Dien Bien Phu. Americans have been taking it in the pocketbook for years (including through the last "recovery"). If the economy has a long hard landing, 2008 could be 1932 all over again.

Good to know

How to chill a can of pop in 2 minutes
via Evangelical Outpost: Yak Shaving Razor #76

It's All About Me

Another fine piece from The Evangelical Outpost
Pro-life advocates often claim that we live in a "culture of death." But most of us don't believe it. Not really. We may use the phrase as a rhetorical tool but deep in our hearts we think that our family, friends, and neighbors wouldn't knowingly kill another human being.

We convince ourselves that they simply don't realize what they're doing. If only they could see the pictures. If only we could convince them that the "fetus" is a person. If only they knew it was a human life they were destroying. If they only knew, they wouldn't -- they couldn't -- go through with the abortion.

But they do know. And the abortions continue. Not because we live in a culture of death but because we live in a culture of me.
In the fall of 2003, Glamour magazine had an article about a group of abortion clinics called the "November Gang" who encourage women to express their feeling about the procedure by writing them down on a pink, heart-shaped sheet of paper:
Notice that all three of these examples mention God. God forgives. The baby is better off with God. But the last one best sums up the attitude behind the Culture of Me: God thought you should be born but I beg to differ.
While reading these quotes I was reminded of the words of Josef Pieper. In his book Faith, Hope, Love, the Thomist philosopher examines the various meanings and connections between the concepts we use to describe "love." What, he asks, is the "recurrent identity underlying the countless forms of love?"

"My tentative answer to this question runs as follows: In every conceivable case love signifies much the same as approval. This is first of all to be taken in the literal sense of the word's root: loving someone or something means finding him or its probes, the Latin word for 'good.' It is a way of turning to him or it and saying, "It's good that you exist; it's good that you are in the world!"
The opposite of love, therefore, is the attitude that says "It's good that you not exist; it's good that you are not in the world!" No matter what words they chose to scribble on a pink paper heart, this is the message being spoken to these unborn children. While these women were informed that abortion was a reasonable choice, no one told them they were choosing the negation of love.


I'm sick of this crap

Hugh Hewitt posts a piece called Will The GOP Break The Trust? supposedly written by "an active duty office with 26 years in, including combat experience"
Since the 1968 presidential election, the Republicans have held the mantle of national security and they have deserved it. The Democrats have been the party of pacifism and retreat. History simply will not allow the Democrats to run from this label as their forced retreat from Vietnam demonstrated and their softness with regards to the former Soviet Union proves. On EVERY MAJOR NATIONAL SECURITY ISSUE the Democrats have been WRONG. At least they are consistent. In opposition for most of my life, the Republicans have stood with America and argued for greater American security at nearly every turn. They argued consistently for a tougher stance against communism both in Eurasia and in South America. They favored programs designed to challenge the Soviets and ultimately produced Ronald Reagan who defeated the Soviets by confronting them and competing with them on every front. It was as he said, “Simple, we win they lose.” Ultimately it broke their backs and not the US bank. But today, Republicans risk something far greater than self-defeat in Iraq; they face demoralizing permanently the armed forces that protect this country.

The morale among America’s armed forces following Vietnam was abysmal. Drug use flourished, ships could not put to sea, and army divisions were divisions in name only. It was the era of the hollow military and it corresponded with the Carter administration and continued Democratic majorities in Congress. Democratic Senator Frank Church systematically dismantled the US intelligence apparatus; a legacy that haunts America today as it still suffers from the loss of Human Intelligence (HUMINT) assets. After Vietnam the US decided that an all-volunteer military was the best avenue towards a professional military capable of meeting all threats along the spectrum of conflict. From low-intensity conflict to global nuclear conflagration, a new armed force was created but still remained undermanned and under-funded. Throughout the bleak times of Democratic leadership, the Republicans consistently fought to keep America’s fighting forces second to none and were willing to gamble political capital to make their case. Ultimately they were successful and the election of President Reagan ushered in better funding and most importantly better morale.

America began to respect the armed forces once again as they time and again demonstrated their professionalism and dedication to the nation whether in the skies over the Gulf of Sidra, taking down the Achille Lauro from terrorists or on Grenada. No longer were soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen ashamed or embarrassed to wear their uniforms. They wore them with pride and their fellow citizens respected them for their service. The point to be made here is that the armed forces were supported consistently and often at great political cost by ONE party, the Republicans and that support was rewarded by fidelity and electoral support. Today, Republicans risk discarding that trust for crass political expediency. Instead of demonstrating leadership “under fire,” political fire, the type of leadership they demand of their armed forces under REAL FIRE, they are now joining the sirens song of cut and run orchestrated by the Democrats and their wholly owned subsidiary, the mainstream media.

The cost of this strategy by Republicans will leave a vacuum for military members. Who among us in uniform will trust ANY politician with her life? Who among our professional VOLUNTEER military class will willingly allow his children to serve knowing that neither party can be trusted to lead? The threat to American society and freedom is that no one will serve because the political class cannot be trusted with our lives and the lives of our children. Today the army and marines are enjoying tremendous re-enlistment rates despite onerous and dangerous deployments? Why is that? It’s really quite simple, leadership, the leadership of the president and his steadfast willingness to put his political life on the line and the leadership of America’s commissioned and non-commissioned officer corps. Most members of the armed forces reflexively expect the Democrats to pay lip service to supporting them while doing all they can to see their mission fail for political gain but they have always expected the Republicans to be resolute and to stand by them. Today it appears the curtain is failing on those times and with that the morale and effectiveness of the all-volunteer force.

If the Republicans continue on this suicidal path, members of the armed forces will leave their services in droves and simply not vote.

Somehow we survived the war of 1812, the abandonment of reconstruction in 1877, Korea, Vietnam, Beirut, and Somalia and countless other half-assed interventions. For that matter the First and Second World wars had somewhat crappy outcomes (the First led to the Second, and the Second left half of Europe as spoils of war to a dictatorship). All of the wars featured criticism (often lots) of the Commander in Chief's decisions. Believe it or not, in spite of all the efforts to the contrary, this country is still a democracy. If this anonymous officer has a problem with that I'd really rather he resigned his commsion, took his pension, and played shuffleboard. This is not Latin America. Active Duty Military officers do not belong in politics (both sides are trying to drag the troops into this debate, both sides are being shortsighted). Oh, and does our anonymous interlocutor remember Sam Nunn?

Baghdad in California

CNN: Deaths of innocents lead to L.A. gang crackdown
Residents are demanding renewed action while trying to stay out of the line of fire.

Esteban Martinez, 41, hears gunshots at night in the San Fernando Valley, where he lives with his wife and four small children.

"Everybody is afraid, but they don't speak (to police) because they are afraid to get into trouble with the gang members," Martinez said. "I'm worried about my family."

Two weeks ago, an officer searching a house in the area for wanted gang members was wounded in the leg when a gang-banger fired through a closed bedroom door.

Nothing has outraged the city more than the gang slayings of children. Last month, 9-year-old Charupha Wongwisetsiri was standing in her family's kitchen when she was struck by a stray round from gang crossfire in Angelino Heights near downtown.

That came just five days after the shooting death of Cheryl Green, a 14-year-old black girl, who was talking to friends in the Harbor Gateway area. Two Hispanic gang members, who police said were intent on killing blacks, were arrested.

Seems like another place we could use 50,000 armed guys to occupy and clear.

A rising tide of ambivalence

Indianapolis Star: Colleges hotbeds of ambivalence over war
War traditionally has not been popular with students, going back to the Civil War, when people burned draft cards, and the more famous Vietnam-era protests, said Michael McGinnis, an IU political science professor.

He said the move to a volunteer military has allowed students to distance themselves somewhat from the war in Iraq. Since the draft ended, he said, student activism has declined.

"It doesn't mean that they aren't as interested, but it does takes away the intensity of feeling," he said.

Many students aren't worried about a military draft returning, but it's in the back of their minds.

That's why there has been no massive uprising on the campus a la the 60's. They not more or less noble than the college kids of the 60's, they just don't have skin in the game.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

They did it

Colts will face the Bears in the Superbowl

What's old is new again

The American Scene:The North, the South, and God
Was the Civil War a just war? a review of Harry S. Stout's Upon the Altar of the Nation: A Moral History of the Civil War,

.....The religious language of the war, in particular, was nearly always the language of the jeremiad, in which God guarantees victory to the righteous and ruin to their enemies, and battlefield success is linked to piety and failure to apostasy. The preachers of the Civil War era, North and South, were light-years removed from the presumption toward pacifism that dominates contemporary religious discourse, and nearly every pulpit — as Stout demonstrates in often-exhaustive detail — rang with appeals to heaven for victory and with assurances that God smiled on the preservation of the Union or its dissolution, the abolition of slavery or its extension to the Pacific.

Stout calls this the “cultural captivity of the churches,” and it’s one of the major themes of the book, returned to repeatedly as the war — and his account of it, which recapitulates at unnecessary length the work of previous historians — drags on and the North’s jeremiads grow more confident, the South’s more desperate and apocalyptic. A second theme is the brutal reality that these jeremiads ignored, both the specific war crimes — rapine and murder, the inhumane conditions in both Confederate and Union prisons, the criminal stupidity of the commanders who sent men to die at Marye’s Heights and Gettysburg and Cold Harbor — and the general policies that made them possible. In particular, Stout trains his fire on Lincoln’s decision to abandon the old West Point code of military conduct in favor of a more latitudinarian policy, one that countenanced seizing civilian property and destroying civilian homes. This willingness to expand the war beyond the battlefield, he argues, and the Confederate willingness to respond in kind, marked the beginning of the modern concept of total war. The Lincolnian policy stopped short of allowing assaults on civilians themselves, but its logic led in a darker direction, and in the wreckage of Georgia lay the seeds of the twentieth century’s wartime horrors.

It’s not that this analysis is wrong, precisely, but it feels incomplete and at times obtuse. Stout judges the Civil War’s actors, but he doesn’t work hard enough to understand them — and in particular, by deliberately tabling the question of jus ad bello, he fails to grapple with the underlying realities that made once-unthinkable slaughter and savagery seem not only necessary but just. The bloodiness of the conflict, the bellicosity of the preachers, the suffering that the Northern armies eventually wreaked on the crumbling South — none of these is explicable without a consideration of how high the stakes seemed to be on both sides, how firmly each believed that not only their own nation’s survival but civilization itself depended on the outcome.

This paradox extends beyond the battlefields of the Civil War to any conflict that seeks a kind of cosmic justice or takes on the flavor of a crusade. The ends don’t justify the means, but if your ends seem important enough — the end of slavery in the nineteenth century, the defeat of Nazi Germany or Imperial Japan in the twentieth — well, which leader is prepared to sacrifice jus ad bello for the sake of jus in bello and lose a greater justice for a smaller one? If you’re fighting to “end all wars” or to “end evil” — to borrow one of the more sweeping definitions of our present conflict — then doesn’t every weapon need to be considered, every measure allowed?

These are the questions that American policymakers have been wrestling with for more than a century, from TR and Wilson to LBJ and George W. Bush. The debates over Hiroshima and Dresden are the extreme cases, of course, but the paradox is visible as well in the daily compromises and contradictions of our occupation of Iraq, where our sweeping, idealistic goals have dirtied our hands more than, say, the more cold-blooded First Gulf War ever did. On a case-by-case basis, the abuses on display in Abu Ghraib and elsewhere were of course avoidable — but in the aggregate, tactics that violate “the highest principles of Christian civilization” are an almost-inevitable part of any occupation, any counterinsurgency, any serious attempt to reshape a dysfunctional society.

Our occupations of Japan and Germany 50 years earlier were cleaner, but we had done to those countries what Sherman did to Georgia, only more so — destroying not only armies but entire societies, which once flattened were easier to rebuild. It’s this reality that led Max Boot to remark recently that we might have been better off in Iraq had the initial invasion been more brutal. Instead, he noted, “the U.S. was so sparing in its use of force that many Baathists never understood they were beaten. The butcher’s bill we dodged early on is now being paid with compound interest.”

This point of view feels unacceptable and even odious, since accepting its implications would mean abandoning the idea of jus in bello entirely and enthroning in its place a kind of bloody-minded consequentialism. Yet the seeming alternatives — an unblinking realpolitik, a sweeping pacifism, or the kind of purer-than-thou idealism that Stout offers, with its lack of realism about the costs and necessities of war — are hardly more palatable.

A decade after Appomattox, faced with a situation similar to ours in Iraq — a society half-reshaped and restive, a low-level insurgency, a mounting financial cost — the North elected to abandon Reconstruction, return power to the defeated slaveholders, and forsake the people it had fought a war to free. For a long time they were praised for it by pro-Southern historiographers who saw Reconstruction the way the Left sees the Iraqi occupation, as an overzealous attempt to impose a way of life by force on an unwilling culture. Later it was pointed out that Reconstruction was hardly worse than the apartheid that came after and that perhaps the North should have stayed longer and done more to root out the pathologies of the conquered South.

The choice is no easier in hindsight than it was in 1876.

Cry Me a River

Washington Monthly: The new proletariat
In the recent articles “The Revolt of the Fairly Rich” in Fortune, and “A New Class War: The Haves Versus the Have Mores,” we learn that people in the $100,000-500,000 income range now see themselves as underprivileged. This group includes congressmen, upper-level government officials, journalists at major news organizations, and professors at elite universities. This new proletariat is not exactly voiceless.

The new proletariat’s big cause at the moment is something called the alternative minimum tax (AMT), and they’re using their political and journalistic muscle to reform it to their taste. The tax was originally designed to keep the rich from using various loopholes to escape the income tax entirely. However, because of inflation, $100,000 no longer means you’re as well-off as it used to, but now may make you eligible for the AMT. The new proletariat feels threatened. But just how serious is the threat? A story on the front page of The Washington Post sought to raise alarm about the tax. An example used in the accompanying chart illustrating the harm was of a single parent with six children making $75,000 a year who would have to pay $1,112 more because of the AMT. But you don’t have to get rid of the AMT entirely to provide mercy for that fellow and others similarly situated. Besides, how many parents have six children these days? Two children are far more typical. And a couple with two children can make $80,000 without paying any AMT.

In fact, only 20 percent of taxpayers make $80,000 or more. For these people to wallow in self-pity is ridiculous. They should concern themselves with the 80 percent of taxpayers who make less than $80,000. And the major burden for that 80 percent is not the income tax or the AMT, it is the FICA, or Social Security tax. If we want to help them, we reduce that tax first. Congress has hesitated to touch it because they fear being accused of tampering with Social Security. But if they really want to help the working people of this country instead of themselves, it’s FICA, not the AMT, that should be their target.

I'm all for the single mom, but I think the single mom with six kids making 20K a year is in more need of a break than one making 75K.

Fun with numbers

LifeSite News:New York Times Gets Another Story Very Wrong - This Time it’s about Marriage

The New York Times has once again published another 'hit piece' on the institution of marriage, alleging that for “the first time more American women are living without a husband than with one”. However, US census data for 2005 shows that the January 16th front-page story in the New York Times is just another disturbing showcase of the Times’ tolerance for “journalistic malpractice”.

“For what experts say is probably the first time,” writes Sam Roberts on the Times front page, “more American women are living without a husband than with one, according to a New York Times analysis of census results.”

“In 2005, 51 percent of women said they were living without a spouse, up from 35 percent in 1950 and 49 percent in 2000,” writes Roberts. He adds that now married couples make up a minority of all American households and “the trend could ultimately shape social and workplace policies, including the ways government and employers distribute benefits.”

The plain truth is that Roberts’ findings are at variance with US census reports for 2005, which demonstrate a far different picture from the profiles selected by Roberts of single women “delighting in their new found freedom.”

According to the 2005 report “Marital Status of the Population by Sex and Age”, the United States is not yet a culture that has discarded the institution of marriage, where 60.4% of men and 56.9% of women over 18 years old are married.

However, Roberts creates his own analysis by using the Census Bureau’s “Living Arrangements of Persons 15 Years Old and Over by Selected Characteristics”, by including in his 51% figure of women living without a spouse: unmarried teenage and college girls still living with their parents, women whose husbands work out of town, are institutionalized, or are separated from husbands serving in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Perhaps most disturbing is how blatantly Roberts’ claims are at variance with US census bureau statistics. Among marriageable women over 18 years old, 56.9% of women are married, with 53% having a spouse present, 1.4% with a spouse absent, 9.9% widowed, and 11.5% divorced. Yet, 67.3% of women 30-34, and 70.5% of women 35-39 are married, a far cry from the profiles of women offered by the Times of women finding fulfillment outside marriage.

Dr. Scott Stanley, co-director of the Center for Marital and Family Studies at the University of Denver, said that today’s median marrying age for woman is 26, a fact that radically skew marriage statistics when comparing the data to other eras where men and women married at younger ages. Far from women abandoning marriage, he said “the number of people who want to be married and have it work out well is still extraordinarily high.”

I heard the report about the Roberts story on NPR and had no idea of the distortions. They did bring out that part of the story is the disparity in life expectancies between man and women. It's hard to sort out facts with all the different versions flying back and forth.

Why the future belongs to the developing world

Beliefnet:Mary Walsh:Wanted by the Fertility Police

Last year, I clicked on an article about the biggest financial mistakes people make. The venomous words "having too many children" jumped off the screen at me. The article said that one or two children were bad enough; that children are extremely expensive and time-consuming; that the problem with having a third child is that the parents often want to have a fourth; and that four children are just too many. Children, one of the greatest joys of married life, the symbol of love between a husband and wife, were summarily dumped into the bin of financial mistakes.

That is the story of the Boomer reign. We have not invested in the future of our nation and so things are slowly coming apart. Whether you think peak oil is in five years or fifty years it is absurd not to be busting butt on future alternatives. Our political and economic decisions over the past few decades have been focused on maximizing short term gain and putting costs off on future generations. The Boomers aborted their children so the party could keep on going and now have no one to pay the bill for social security or wipe their butts. Eating your seed corn might feel good at the time but it is the antithesis of a long term strategy.

Two Prejudices

Beliefnet: Shmuley Boteach: Beauty vs. Babies and Beards

Of the many prejudices prevalent in society, there are two that are rarely addressed. The first is a prejudice against families with many children. I should know: We have seven, thank G-d, and I find myself apologizing wherever I go. The frequent stares loaded with disapproval and scorn seem to imply that the housing crisis in New York and the famine in Ethiopia were caused single-handedly by my own large brood. I suspect that now with seven, I present a most extreme example of selfish overpopulation. But any family with more than three kids meets with subtle, or not so subtle, condemnation from strangers. When I have broached this very issue with others who dare to overpopulate, they relate to the experience of suspicious stares and raised eyebrows. We have grown accustomed to the looks on the faces of strangers-first puzzlement, then pity, then scorn-as they try to fathom why we would voluntarily subject ourselves to such a horrific fate. But while we now know to expect it, I fail to understand it.
The second prejudice that seems largely overlooked is a cruel disdain against people deemed unattractive by society's standards-or at least those who aren't well-groomed and beautiful. Often the two prejudices come together, as if only those who are ugly or unconventional-looking would be dumb enough to have lots of kids.
There is something seriously wrong in the world when children are treated as a nuisance while dogs are treated as love objects. And there is something seriously amiss when appearance, rather than actions, can dictate likeability. There is something dangerously off track when men and women who love children, and aren't afraid to have large families, must feel apologetic and guilty for doing so. To paraphrase Martin Luther King, we await the day when our children will be judged by the content of their character rather than the comeliness of their skin. And we await the day when the fact of our children's existence is not judged at all, but seen as the embodiment of infinite blessing.

Our veneration of beauty and youth leaves no room for the unattractive or, God forbid, the younger who might take the spotlight off or the current generation.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

The Difference between War and War Games

Jonathan Rauch National Journal:A Bad Idea That Deserves A Try
President Bush, characteristically, is not leveling with the public about the risks he is taking with his plan to "surge" more U.S. forces into Iraq. Jack Keane, a retired Army vice chief of staff and a leading proponent of the strategy, is more frank. Here is what he told Charlie Rose earlier this month:

"If we have to go into Sadr City" -- a Shiite stronghold in Baghdad -- "what will happen will be rather dramatic. The Badr Corps and the Jaish al-Mahdi [two major Shiite militias], which are not aligned, will align. And they'll also be able to align the vigilante groups, which are essentially protecting the neighborhoods and causing some mischief and havoc. They'll all get aligned, and we'll have to contend with about 70,000 people under arms in one of the heavily and most densely populated areas of Baghdad."

Read that again. Then repeat after me: Uh-oh.

Painfully aware that the Iraq war has given commentators a lesson in humility, I offer the following assessment with no certainty at all but with the hope of at least contributing to clarity: The Bush Surge is unlikely to work, but Congress should not try to stop it.

Going to war against the Shiites would be a nightmare, and everyone knows it. American forces could soon find themselves in firefights not only with tens of thousands of armed and angry Shiite militants but also with Iraqi police and army units, in or out of uniform. The Pentagon could win such a conflict militarily, Keane told Rose, "but in my judgment we should avoid it at all costs, and try to resolve it politically."

In effect, Keane appears to be saying that the plan works at an acceptable cost only if the United States can pacify the Shiite militants without forcibly confronting them. To me, and possibly also to the Sadrists, this looks like what gamblers call a bluff.

So why shouldn't the Democratic Congress block such an unpromising strategy? Three reasons point, I think, independently in the same direction.

First, the Constitution. It provides for one commander-in-chief, not 536.

A determined president can evade all but the tightest congressional attempts to override his military decisions, and any sufficiently tight congressional strictures are likely to emasculate the presidency and fracture the Congress.

Second, politics. Blocking the president's last-resort plan would divide the country for years to come. Many Republicans would believe that the war was winnable and that Democrats lost it. If the United States is going to leave Iraq, it should do so when even Republicans agree that there is little reason to stay -- which they will, if Bush's Hail Mary pass fails.

Third, morality. America has not quite discharged its debt to Iraq.

Apart from evacuating as many as possible of those Iraqis who personally aided the American effort, the United States can do nothing for moderate and peace-loving Iraqis if the Baghdad government is determined to press or abet a sectarian agenda. A tragedy will unfold. But if there is any chance that the Iraqi government might yet be salvageable, then the United States owes it to the Iraqis to find out.

Once the surge takes place, Americans are likely to know in a matter of months whether the Maliki government is serious about pacifying Shiite militants, coming to terms with Sunnis, and cleaning up the ministries and security forces. If not, Washington can begin withdrawing forces and shift into damage-control mode -- not without guilt, but at least with certainty.

Politically it makes sense. Morally it seems outrageous to advocate sending troops, or more accurately allowing troops to be sent, on a disastrous course of action that you believe will result in a good number of them coming home in flag draped caskets without a reward worthy of their sacrifice.

EOBR's revisited

Back on the 11th I mentioned the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's new Electronic Onboard Data Recorder rule which would apply to less than 1% of the industry.

Here's a couple data points

Ol' Blue USA:HOS Survey Review – Opens Eyes
Ol’ Blue, USA™ recently conducted a survey on its Website ( ) about the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) Hours of Service (HOS) Regulations – and the results were alarming, but not surprising.

Of the 1,094 qualified respondents, a vast majority of them (65%) were company drivers, while 26% were leased owner operators, 8% were independent owner operators with their own authority, and 1% were involved in other occupations which require a CDL. The primary route these respondents traveled broke down to about 63% long haul (more than 500 miles from base), 32% regional (within 500 miles of base), 8% local (within 100 miles of base), and 3% of other types of routes. The total percentage exceeded 100% due to multiple route types.

What did the survey find? In a nutshell, it revealed that the majority of drivers feel that they understand the HOS regulations, to a certain extent, but have questions. The alarming (but not surprising) data was the fact that 77% of the respondents admitted to deliberately violating the HOS regulations in the past and 55% said they were still currently deliberately violating the rules.

From a 1997 survey of truck drivers Let It Be Palletized:
A Portrait of Truck Drivers’ Work and Lives (PDF)

Not including those who reported no work in the previous week, drivers worked up to the legal limit on
working. Drivers worked 60 hours in the last seven days at the median, and averaged 63.2 hours. Few
drivers, only slightly over 10% of the respondents, worked 40 hours or less in seven days. A larger
proportion worked more than permitted by the hours of service regulations: 25% of the respondents
reported working at least 75 hours, 10% reported working at least 90 hours.

It seems like a bit more than 1% of the driver population is violating the rules.

Thursday, January 18, 2007


Tribune-Star:Bayh: Troops needed in Afghanistan

On the same day it was reported that a United States aircraft carrier is being positioned in the Persian Gulf to show “resolve” to Iran, Sen. Evan Bayh wrote a letter along with Sen. Hillary Clinton urging Defense Secretary Robert Gates to deploy more troops to Afghanistan.

Bayh (D–Ind.), who recently returned from a four-day trip to Iraq and Afghanistan with Sen. Clinton (D–N.Y.), said that while the situation in Afghanistan is looking “much more hopeful,” the war in Iraq continues to deteriorate.

In a teleconference from Washington on Wednesday, Bayh summarized his trip, during which he, Clinton and Rep. John McHugh (R–N.Y.) met with U.S. military commanders and members of Iraqi leadership, including Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Military commanders in Afghanistan are requesting additional resources, “including another battalion of troops to meet what they anticipate will be another Taliban offensive” in the spring or summer, Bayh said.

The “lessons of Iraq” should help inform the next steps taken in Afghanistan, he said. One difference there, he added, is that “Afghans are politically fairly united. They don’t want to go back to the days of the Taliban, they support what we’re doing.” Iraqis, on the other hand, still are torn and unsure whether to accept help from Iran.

Another difference is the number of troops, Bayh said. “More forces early on could have made a difference in Iraq. I think we’re beyond that point now. In Afghanistan we’re still at a point where if we add the resources including a few extra troops right now, we can tip the struggle in a positive direction … Remember we were attacked by Afghanistan, so we have a strong interest in making sure it doesn’t sink back into a kind of collapsed state that will be a safe haven for terrorists. For a tiny fraction of the resources we’ve been asked to devote to Iraq, we could make a major difference in Afghanistan.”
When asked if he and Sen. Clinton had discussed a joint run for the White House in 2008, Bayh said they had not talked about it. “We were there to focus upon one of the biggest challenges facing our country today: what to do about the global struggle against terrorism, what to do about Iraq and Afghanistan.

“That’s what we were focused on.”

Be an interesting pairing. Hillary may want to cover her left flank, though.

Monday, January 15, 2007

The Ownership Society in action

The Wall Street Journal:How Wall Street 'Sweeps' the Cash
The phrase "cash sweep" may sound like a cleaning crew gathering loose change. But on Wall Street, the top brokerage firms are increasingly turning cash sweeps into gold.

The blue-chip securities firms are reaping bigger profits from a few simple changes to how investors' idle cash balances are treated. And most investors either don't notice or don't care that Wall Street's gains are coming at their expense as brokers turn around and reinvest the money for their own benefit at a higher rate.

Merrill Lynch & Co., which pioneered such tactics starting in 2000, is expected to report next week that its profits derived mainly from reinvesting customers' cash will top $2 billion for 2006, up from $1.3 billion two years ago.

Last year Morgan Stanley ramped up the same strategy of "sweeping" client cash to insured bank deposits, which pay rates as low as 1.25% on the smallest accounts. And the Smith Barney unit of Citigroup Inc. in September also began paying rates as low as 1.51% for cash in smaller accounts.
Take Wachovia Corp. Its brokerage pays just 1% on bank-sweep cash for accounts with under $100,000 in assets and 1.3% for accounts under $250,000, while accounts with over $1 million get 4%.

Joe Nadreau, director of client strategy, acknowledges the lower rates are "beneficial" to Wachovia, but notes they are just one element of its fees and costs in "the whole competitive fee landscape" in which larger accounts are inherently more profitable.

One person familiar with Merrill's decision to move uninvested funds to bank deposits starting in 2000 said it was inspired partly by a strategy pursued even earlier by discount broker Charles Schwab Corp.

Schwab had used its own interest-bearing account, effectively a Schwab IOU, as an alternative to money-market funds for client cash, earning a profit by reinvesting the funds at higher rates. Currently, Schwab and other online brokers earn more in interest income from cash balances and margin loans than from commissions.

Amid the regulatory prodding, some firms send clients brochures about their sweep programs that include some cautions. But readers have to look closely to discern that they may suffer financially.

The Merrill Lynch disclosure, for example, carries the bland headline, "Timely Reminder Concerning Yields on Deposits with the Merrill Lynch Banks and Certain Investment Alternatives." It says rates are "tiered" without saying plainly that small accounts get less. But it says the deposits are "financially beneficial" to Merrill Lynch, and a table indicates that accounts with less than $250,000 will receive just 1.51% and rates of up to 4.4% are available in money funds if clients speak with their broker.

A Merrill spokesman said the tiers are part of "relationship pricing, which rewards those clients with larger asset bases for consolidating all of their business with the firm. The process is transparent and fully disclosed in writing to clients."

NY Times Dealbook:Mack’s $40 Million Bonus Sets Record, For Now
Morgan Stanley gave its chief executive, John J. Mack, $40 million in stock and options for 2006, the largest bonus ever awarded to a Wall Street chief. But the record may be short-lived as press reports and analysts are predicting even bigger rewards for the C.E.O.s of rival investment banks.

The Wall Street Journal, citing unidentified sources, writes that Goldman Sachs’s chief executive, Lloyd Blankfein, is in line for compensation exceeding $50 million, and analysts told the newspaper that that some other chief executives, such as James Cayne of Bear Stearns and E. Stanley O’Neal of Merrill Lynch, could get $40 million to $50 million, or higher.

Mr. Mack received his entire bonus in stock and options. He was granted shares valued at $36.2 million as of Dec. 12, and about $4 million in options to buy Morgan Stanley shares. The firm also granted more than $57 million in bonuses for seven other top executives.

So the rubes trying to save for retirement get taken advantage of for the benefit of the large corporations and by extension their execs. That's the ownership society, fewer and fewer people own more and more snatched from the pockets of everyone else. The thing is is there's plenty of money to be made without fleecing folks. As folks wake up to the graft practiced by the rich, economic populism is only going to grow in appeal. The greed of the upper class is going to be repaid with interest and they will have no one to blame but themselves.

Unanswered Questions

RealClear Politics:Sandy Berger: What Did He Take and Why Did He Take It?
Some things cry out for explanation. Like finding $90,000 in marked bills in a Congressman's freezer. Or finding out that a blue-chip lawyer who held one of the most important jobs in the nation was willing to risk his career, his livelihood, and his liberty to steal, hide, and destroy classified documents.

We all have a pretty good idea what the money was doing in Representative William Jefferson's freezer. But the questions about President William Jefferson Clinton's National Security Adviser, Sandy Berger, just keep piling up.

It's time we got some answers.

According to reports from the Inspector General of the National Archives and the staff of the House of Representatives' Government Operations Committee, Mr. Berger, while acting as former President Clinton's designated representative to the commission investigating the attacks of September 11, 2001, illegally took confidential documents from the Archives on more than one occasion. He folded documents in his clothes, snuck them out of the Archives building, and stashed them under a construction trailer nearby until he could return, retrieve them, and later cut them up. After he was caught, he lied to the investigators and tried to shift blame to Archive employees.

Contrary to his initial denials and later excuses, Berger clearly intended from the outset to remove sensitive material from the Archives. He used the pretext of making and receiving private phone calls to get time alone with confidential material, although rules governing access dictated that someone from the Archives staff must be present. He took bathroom breaks every half-hour to provide further opportunity to remove and conceal documents.

At President Clinton's request, he reviewed highly confidential material during four visits to the Archives over four months. Only Mr. Berger knows what transpired on his first two visits, when he reviewed collections of confidential memos, e-mails, and handwritten notes, including materials taken from counter-terrorism adviser Richard Clarke's office - all of which were not catalogued at the individual item level.

On Mr. Berger's third visit Archives employees became suspicious that he might be removing classified material. Rather than directly confront a former Cabinet-level official, Archives officials simply took steps to identify further theft on succeeding visits. That is how Mr. Berger's thefts on his fourth and last visit were documented.

We don't know what Mr. Berger might have removed from the uncatalogued materials reviewed in his earlier visits, but we know his last visit focused on a memorandum called the Millennium Alert After Action Report (MAAAR). Copies of this report were made available to the 9/11 Commission, but the information in those copies undoubtedly is not what interested Berger most. Berger took five copies of the report and later destroyed three of them.

What was on the copies he destroyed? Handwritten notes from Berger, the President, or some other official? Observations that would be embarrassing to them, evidence they missed an important threat or considered or recommended actions - or decisions not to act - they wouldn't want to defend in public? Evidence, perhaps, that would have supported the Bush Administration? We don't know, and no one who does is saying, but the evidence must have been terribly damning for Berger to take the risks he did.

Mr. Berger, the Clintons, and their allies do not want questions about this story asked or answered. Mr. Berger's lawyer, Lanny Breuer, along with former Clinton officials, assured us that all of the material destroyed by Berger existed in other form and was made available to the 9/11 investigations, that nothing relevant to the Clinton Administration's response to al-Qaeda was withheld.

Of course, we also were assured that Monica had only imagined a relationship with Bill and that rumors to the contrary were, in Hillary's famous phrase, the work of a "vast right-wing conspiracy."

Politicians never like to admit mistakes. They see legitimate inquiries as politically inspired, which they often are. Changing the subject or shifting blame to others aren't tactics peculiar to the Clintons.

The Clintons, however, take the game of deny-deceive-and-distract to a new level. Their relentless personal attacks on Ken Starr were designed to undermine the credibility of information about Bill Clinton's perjury, to deflect attention from his own failings. Clinton's excessive reaction - complete with hyperbole, finger-wagging, and scolding - to a simple question from Fox News' Chris Wallace about his response to al-Qaeda is in the same vein. Something here touches a nerve.

That nerve is exposed in the Sandy Berger saga. This story at bottom is about the security of our nation, about what was - or was not - done to protect us from the most shocking and deadly attack on American citizens by foreign agents in our nation's history. This story is critical not only to understanding our past but also to securing our future. It can help us understand what it is reasonable to expect can be done to keep us and our loved ones safe from harm. It is, in short, as important a story as there is.

It is a story the news media should be desperate to explore, not desperate to avoid.

They should want to know the full story, no matter what the implications are for the legacy of a president much loved by an overwhelmingly liberal media or what the risks are for a former First Lady whose future is tied to her husband's past. Those risks loom especially large before a field of potential Republican presidential candidates with strong reputations in security matters - like Rudy Giuliani, for example, whose courageous performance on 9/11 still resonates.

Those who wrap themselves so frequently in the mantra of the people's right to know should want to know the truth - all the time. Sadly, today's would-be Woodwards and Bernsteins look more like ostriches than hawks, showing no curiosity about what Sandy Berger was hiding. Had that been the attitude when Watergate first appeared as a minor news story, Richard Nixon would have served out his full second term. The rest, as they say, is history.

This is one of the ugly parts of the Democratic response to 9/11. Go to Kos or Klein and you'll hear all manner of conspiracy theories about the Republicans in the comboxes (at Kos pretty much everywhere) but no one will ask about the Donkey in the room. Why would Berger take things that were "available from other sources"? That's kind off of the scale on the risk-reward relationship.

Doin' the heavy liftin' for Iran

Newsweek:Fareed Zakaria: We might win but still lose

Administration officials have pointed to last week's fighting against Sunni insurgents in and around Baghdad's Haifa Street as a textbook example of the new strategy. Iraqi forces took the lead, American troops backed them up and the government did not put up any obstacles. The Wall Street Journal's Daniel Henninger concluded that the battle "looked like a successful test of unified [American-Iraqi] effort."

But did it? NEWSWEEK's Michael Hastings, embedded with an American advisory team that took part in the fighting, reports that no more than 24 hours after the battle began on Jan. 6, the brigade's Sunni commander, Gen. Razzak Hamza, was relieved of his command. The phone call to fire him came directly from the office of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, a Shiite. Lt. Col. Steven Duke, commander of a U.S. advisory team working with the Iraqis, and a 20-year Army veteran, describes Hamza as "a true patriot [who] would go after the bad guys on either side." Hamza was replaced by a Shiite.

Joint operations against Shiite militias are far less likely, and not only because of political interference from the top. Groups like Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army don't generally start fire fights with the Americans or attack Iraqi forces. Their goals are different, quieter. Another U.S. adviser, Maj. Mark Brady, confirms reports that the Mahdi Army has been continuing to systematically take over Sunni neighborhoods, killing, terrorizing and forcing people out of their homes. "They're slowly moving across the river," he told Hastings, from predominantly Shiite eastern Baghdad into the predominantly Sunni west. If the 20,000 additional American troops being sent to the Iraqi capital focus primarily on Sunni insurgents, there's a chance the Shiite militias might get bolder. Colonel Duke puts it bluntly: "[The Mahdi Army] is sitting on the 50-yard line eating popcorn, watching us do their work for them."

SO we take out the Sunni militias (probably flattening half the neighborhood) behind the cover of Shia Iraqis. Then the "Iraqi police" show up and drag people from their homes (who later show up at the coroner looking like a dark version of a Home Improvement gag. That's sure to engage the Sunnis in the political process.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Really Sad

Street Watch:Notes of a Paramedic: Christmas Eve: Fifteen on the Scale

It's Christmas eve. We get called to one of the local nursing homes for rib pain. The room number sounds familiar. The nurse hands me the paperwork. "Mr. Ryder," she says. "He says he needs more Percocets. He's requesting transport."

Mr. Ryder is a tattooed biker, an emaciated COPDer with a long white beard. Almost sixty, he can't weigh more than a hundred pounds. He sits in his wheel chair, wearing his motorcycle jacket and oxygen cannula.

"I'm in real bad pain," he tells me in his whisper of a voice. "Fifteen on the scale." He nods as if to say it is the truth.

"Well, we'll take you down to the hospital and maybe they can help you."

It seems he fell a couple weeks ago and cracked a rib.

I have taken him to the hospital at least ten times over the years. The night medics have taken him more. Nearly every time it is self-dispatched. He agitates the nurses until they call his doctor who after several calls relents and tells the nurses to go ahead and call an ambulance just to get him to stop pestering them. He gets pneumonia a lot and complains of the chest pain. It is always real bad, he says. He goes to the hospital and gets sent back a couple hours later. He is rarely admitted.

While I don't like to categorize patients in this way, he does fall into the "pain in the ass" category.

I see him nearly everytime we go into the nursing home. He is always sitting out in his wheelchair in the main TV area. He sees me and his eyes light up. I say "Hey Jimmy! How'ya doing?" as I push the stretcher past going for someone else on the wing.

He lights up and says, "Not too bad, hanging in there."

That's the jist of our relationship.

Today in the ambulance, I have an EMT student do vitals as we start toward the hospital. I'm not going to do anything for the patient -- no IV, no monitor -- just keep him on his normal 2 liters of oxygen. His color is good and he doesn't appear in any distress. He, in fact, seems rather lively.

The patient looks up at the EMT student and says, "This guy over here, me and him go back a long way."

"He's taken care of you before?" she says.

"Yeah." He nods at me and then says, "He's probably one of my best friends in the world."

I melt a little inside at his words. It also makes me terribly sad. I think of all his biker buddies -- Hoss and Mongo and Big Steve -- and wonder if they are partying at the Iron Hog without him tonight or if maybe they are all either in the ground or solitary in nursing homes themselves.

He looks up at me now, his eyes locking on mine. "I'm in real bad pain," he whispers urgently. "Fifteen on the scale."

It's hard when folks have that mixture of manipulation and genuine need.

A legend walks off the field

ESPN:Favre not only one getting misty-eyed
He's done.

The most durable, most compelling, most watchable quarterback of our NFL generation is going to call it quits. The official announcement might not come for a week or two, but it will come. That's because Brett Favre's secret was betrayed by his tear ducts, which were powerless against the suddenness of the moment.

One minute he was being hoisted off the field by teammate Donald Driver and then enveloped in a sideline group hug. The next minute he was semi-sobbing in front of a national television audience as NBC's Andrea Kremer gently and expertly let his wet eyes answer her questions.

Brett Favre said: "If it was the last game, I couldn't be more pleased with the outcome."
How could you not watch Favre in the aftermath of the Green Bay Packers' 26-7 woodshed win against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field Sunday evening and not think that for all intents and purposes, he had decided to retire after 16 years? How could you not watch the heartfelt handshakes and embraces with fellow Packers and opposing Bears and not understand that this was his way of saying goodbye? And how could you not secretly hope that maybe, after the emotions recede, and the Packers presumably detail to him their grand plan to improve this 8-8 team through free agency, that Favre calls a timeout and decides to return in 2007?

But Favre has never been very good about hiding his feelings. He wears them on his Packers jersey sleeve, and Sunday night's game against the supposed No. 1 team in the NFC was no exception.

He yelled at wide receivers when they cut their routes short. He pumped his fist after a score. He sought out Brian Urlacher for a handslap after the Bears linebacker somehow tipped away a would-be Favre completion. He tapped Bears' defensive linemen on the helmet tops after tackles. He patted Bears' defensive backs on the shoulder pads at the end of plays. He attempted a block on a goofy reverse. He grinned on the bench. He was 37 going on rookie from Southern Miss.

But the gray hair gives it away. So does the fact that he has a daughter going off to college, and another child at home, and a wife who might not mind having her husband back. His own father died before his time and, well, at what point do you say enough is enough? Favre can still play. My gawd, how he can play. I'd pay money to watch him during pregame warmups.

Nobody in the league plays with the same Pop Warner joy as Favre does. Nobody, with the exception of perhaps Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Steve McNair, is so willing to say, "`I'm going to win this game, or die trying." Nobody is likely to touch his astounding record of 237 consecutive NFL regular season quarterback starts (257, including playoffs) for at least another six years.

I can't help it: Favre is my all-time fave. And he might be the favorite of most everyone he played against. He earned respect not just by those 50,000-plus career passing yards and those 400-plus career touchdown throws, but by the way he played, win or lose.

Can you remember the last time he made an excuse? Can you remember when he wasn't playing in some sort of pain? Can you remember the last time he backed down from anyone or anything?
Now isn't the time to discuss Favre's football legacy. All you need to know is that he'll be wearing one of those yellow Pro Football Hall of Fame blazers in five years.

Weird. An NFL without Favre.

I think I'm going to cry.

I really don't watch football that much any more. Once or twice a year to keep up my "redneck male" cred. But Favre is a legend and deservedly so. I hope he has a great retirement and can find something he enjoys nearly as much as quarterbacking.

How Crazy Would It Be?

Indianapolis versus Chicago in the Superbowl?

The faux art of the deal

Robert Reich:Bad Medicine
House Democrats are pushing a bill to require Medicare to negotiate drug prices. So far, so good. But in what appears to be a bow to the political clout of Big Pharma, the bill does not authorize Medicare to drop from its approved list drugs on which manufacturers fail to offer good deals. This is like Wal-Mart telling its suppliers "we’re going to use our bargaining clout to get from you the lowest prices for our customers – but regardless of what price you offer we’ll still carry your product in our stores." What kind of incentive is that?

The Department of Veterans Affairs gets a 25 percent discount on drug prices for veterans because if a drug company won’t give a big discount, Veterans Affairs won’t include the drug in its plan. Medicare recipients will only get these kinds of savings if Medicare can do the same – walk away from a drug manufacturer that won’t deal.

So the Democrats can make some noise and look clever while keeping the K Street crowd happy. It is past time that we stopped subsidizing Canada and Europe's prescription drugs. We provide the margin that makes developing new drugs worthwhile and many of the innovations brought to market originate (after lots and lots of private investment) from discoveries in our tax-supported labs. I understand and support selling lifesaving drugs at production cost to poor countries, but wealthy Western Democracies don't need a free ride.

The gift that keeps on giving

CNN: White House: We will send more troops in Iraq

President Bush, facing opposition from both parties over his plan to send more troops to Iraq, said he has the authority to act no matter what Congress wants.

"I fully understand they could try to stop me from doing it. But I've made my decision. And we're going forward," Bush told CBS' "60 Minutes" in an interview to air Sunday night.

Vice President Dick Cheney asserted that lawmakers' criticism will not influence Bush's plans and he dismissed any effort to "run a war by committee."

"The president is the commander in chief. He's the one who has to make these tough decisions," Cheney said.

Any attempts to block Bush's efforts would undermine the troops, Cheney said. He took particular aim at Democratic lawmakers who have blasted the president for increasing troops despite opposition from Congress, military advisers and a disgruntled electorate that in November ousted the Republicans as the majority party on Capitol Hill.

Like Bush, though, Cheney said Americans need to look at the war in Iraq as part of a much longer effort.

"This is an existential conflict," Cheney said. "It is the kind of conflict that's going to drive our policy and our government for the next 20 or 30 or 40 years. We have to prevail and we have to have the stomach for the fight long term."

The White House also said Sunday that Iranians are aiding the insurgency in Iraq and the U.S. has the authority to pursue them because they "put our people at risk."

First off, in a lot of ways wars are run by committee. You have folks evaluating intelligence, folks devising military strategy, and folks working the domestic and international political angles, and perhaps most important of all folks making the military logistics work. If the ammunition won't make it to the line till Tuesday, no matter how determined the commander in chief is, the offensive really shouldn't happen on Monday and the logistics commander is not out of line or disloyal for saying an "offensive on Monday is a really, really bad idea". The president does not have the support of the American people for the war and it is appropriate for the Congress to remind him of that. I really doubt funding will be cut off anytime soon (if ever).

20,30,40 years? Well given how this gang has performed so far it seems likely that we are on course for another Hundred Years' War

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Three weeks from disaster

Reuters:Ethanol boom to evaporate corn surplus

The fuel ethanol industry's ravenous appetite for corn will leave the United States with only a meager three-week supply of the grain when this year's crop is ready for harvest, the U.S. government said on Friday.

Corn (maize) prices will surge to the highest level in a decade, an average $3.20 a bushel at the farm gate, the Agriculture Department predicted. Analysts said the dwindling stockpile makes it vital for farms to produce a huge crop this year.

Ethanol distillers are expected to use 2.15 billion bushels, or 20 percent, of the 2006 corn crop in making the renewable fuel. They could consume more than 3.1 billion bushels of the 2007 crop, an increase of nearly 50 percent.

In a monthly look at crop output and usage, USDA estimated 752 million bushels (19.1 million tonnes) of corn will be in grain bins in August, the smallest figure since 1996/97 and equal to a three-week supply.

"That's next to nothing," said private consultant John Schnittker. He cited estimates that corn plantings must increase by 10 percent to assure enough corn for ethanol makers, livestock feeders, exporters and foodmakers.

"Corn is driving the whole thing. It squeezes into acreage for wheat and soybeans," Schnitter said.

Don Roose, president of U.S. Commodities, a trading house, said larger plantings were needed. "Our margin of error has shrunk dramatically," he said.

America's farmers used to feed the world, now they feed our SUV's. I'm glad the farmers are making some money, but one crop monopolizing our farmland seems like a bad idea, kind of like putting all your eggs in one basket. Plus corn is hard on the soil. As farmers move to shorter rotations to maximize corn production per acre production declines, so you get diminishing returns leading to more acres being devoted to corn, etc.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

FMCSA courageously takes on incompetent liars

The morons who took nearly two decades to write hours of service rules (quickly tossed out by the courts for not meeting the explicit instructions of Congress from back in 1984) have now finally written a rule concerning Electronic Onboard Recorders (EOBRS) for trucks and busses (only 12 years after Congress told them to)The Trucker:Proposed EOBR rule would make device mandatory for only serious HOS violators, at least this one only took 12 years.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration this morning issued a proposed rule on Electronic On-board Recorders (EOBRs) that for most of the industry would make use of the devices voluntary.

Under the proposal announced here by FMCSA Administrator John Hill, only some 930 truck and bus companies that had been subjected to at least two compliance reviews within the past two years would required to use the devices for a minimum of two years.

If adopted, Hill said FMCSA estimated that within the first two years that the rule is enforced approximately 930 carriers with 17,500 drivers would be required to use EOBRs..

To expand use of the devices among the more than 650,000 motor carriers in the U.S., the incentives for voluntarily installation include using an examination of a random sample of drivers’ records of duty status as part of a company compliance review and partial relief from HOS supporting documents requirements.

So we took 12 years to write a rule that applies to less than one percent of the industry. George Bush's administration is hard at work protecting us all.