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People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it. Welcome to From On High.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Eureka!

A month and a half after the election, the John Kerry campaign has finally decided the swiftboat vets' ads were having a major impact on their candidate's presidential bid.

Kerry Campaign Head Admits Miscalculations

By STEVE LeBLANC Associated Press Writer

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (AP) -- The campaign manager for Sen. John Kerry's failed presidential bid said Wednesday she regrets underestimating the impact of an attack advertisement that questioned Kerry's Vietnam War record.

Mary Beth Cahill, who spoke at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government with Ken Mehlman, President Bush's campaign manager, said the Massachusetts senator's campaign initially thought there would be "no reach" to the ad from Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.

Instead, the ad, which initially aired in just three states, became a central issue of the campaign, eventually forcing Kerry to personally deny the group's allegations that he did not deserve his combat medals.

"This is the best $40,000 investment made by any political group, but it was only because of the news coverage that it got where it did," she said.

"In hindsight, maybe we should have put Senator Kerry out earlier, perhaps we could have cut it off earlier." (
link)

All they had to do was ask me. I could have told Kerry this was going to ruin him. Instead he waited for the mainstream press to destroy the Swiftboat Veterans For Truth, an effort that would have been successful in years past, but no longer. Not with all the weblogs flogging the story and with the likes of Dan Rather having to dream news up in order to try to make President Bush look bad.

And you know why the story was so devastating? Because everything the vets were saying appears to have been true.

Let Me Back Up

I had harsh words the other day for a University of Louisville professor who had these intemperate words for his students regarding what I take to be a call to kill evangelival Christians:
It was the religious zealots who say they were voting on morals. I think we should all buy AK-47's and shoot them all! That's what I would suggest, if it were allowed." (link)

I suggested that the professor should be sent to prison for incitement. I was forced to reflect on that judgement by a valued reader, Lane G, who reminded me that "such comments by the college professor (if they were made, and he denies it) might be taken as a reasonable satire (ie, only joking) and protected under free speech, and not an genuine incitement to violence."

Perhaps it was intended as satire. We don't know. It is possible that the guy was just shooting his mouth off and got carried away.

Lane G is right about the freedom of speech aspect of this. Although Professor McTighe should not be allowed to encourage people to shoot "religious zealots," he should be given broad latitude when it comes to his expressing his opinion. If for no other reason than because he is on a college campus.

In order for us to not become like them, we need to be vigilant about consistently demanding openness and the free expression of ideas, something that is woefully lacking on campuses around the country today. There is some irony, I think, in the fact that a sociology professor is in trouble for having said something in the classroom that got him in trouble. It is, after all, his family of righteous stormtroopers that determines codes of conduct on campus today; sexual harassment codes, hate speech codes, etc. My, my. How that dog can bite back.

Although I still think there is little doubt that the man is guilty of having said what he's been accused of saying, I intend to give him the benefit of the doubt for now as to his intent. At least until we get to the bottom of this. Then we'll send him to prison.

Just kidding, Lane G. (Thanks for the feedback!)

Crisis? What Crisis?

Democrats are out there telling you that there is nothing to worry about when it comes to Social Security. Even my (Democratic) congressman, a toady who has been in office only because he memorizes and regurgitates the party talking points well, says the system won't go bust until the 2040's so - what's to worry?

Here's what's to worry - if you care at all about your children and grandchildren, Mr. Boucher.

In the 1930s there were 41 workers for every one retiree; the payroll tax could thus be set at a low rate -- about 2% for the first $3,000 of earnings. It was quite a deal for the beneficiaries -- the average rate of return for people retiring in 1940 was 114%.

And like all income redistribution programs, Social Security presented politicians with lots of incentives for sweetening. In the 1950s, Congress started increasing both benefits and the number of people covered. At the same time, however, the demographics were turning sour. Life expectancy was rising to the 78 years it is today, from 69 years for men born in 1940. And fertility rates were declining, from 2.2 children per woman in 1940, to a peak of 3.7 in 1957, to two per woman right now.

No surprise, then, that the ratio of workers to retirees began to fall -- in 1950, it had dropped to 16 workers to one retiree and now it is just three to one. Payroll taxes have had to rise accordingly -- they are now 12.4%. And real rates of return have gone into a free-fall; real returns for workers born in 1960 and retiring in 2025 are less than 2%.

Bad enough, but it is all about to get much worse. Over the next 20 years, as the Baby Boomers start retiring, the number of retirees will jump to around 77 million from 47 million today. The worker-retiree ratio will drop to two to one and real returns for
some could be negative.

The Social Security system will start running a deficit by 2016 when benefits exceed annual payroll tax revenue. The "Trust Fund" surplus will be totally eaten up by 2042 (or a decade later, depending on economic and demographic assumptions). Then Social Security will have to rely solely on revenue from the payroll tax that will not be sufficient to pay benefits. (link)

The Democrats are incapable of fixing this problem. Many Republicans are cowards and are unwilling. The prospects for a fix in the near future - when it would be relatively painless - are not good. But here is an unalterable fact: the Social Security problem will have to be fixed.

In the meantime, those of you Boomers out there who are contemplating what to do in your retirement years, you'd better count on there not being any.

Back To The Drawing Board

With regard to Social Security, if you're going to fix it, fix it.
The White House plan to partially privatize Social Security, as made public thus far, will not cure the system's funding gap, and could make it worse with the retirement of baby boomers, Congress' chief budget watchdog said yesterday. (link)
Good grief.

Michael Crichton Has His Priorities Straight

Michael Crichton, the writer who gave us "Jurassic Park," and who happens to be my favorite author of fiction, can also now be described as being very intelligent. On the subject of global warming, he agrees with me.
"Why are we not feeding people in this world who are hungry? Why are we not giving clean water to the almost billion people who don't have clean water? The greatest source of environmental degradation is poverty. Why aren't we cleaning up poverty?"
He has our priorities straight.

While a lavish conference convenes in Buenos Aires where delegates will blather ad nauseum about the devastation soon to be descending upon the earth as a result of global warming (and the result as well of George W Bush's actions in Iraq and because of the Jews no doubt), another gathering took place yesterday here in Bland. The local outreach ministry had a Christmas gift giveaway for the poor. You can not imagine the crowd that gathered (lining up in the bitter cold) to receive a basket of food and clothing - and some toys for the children.

Ask them about global warming. They understand priorities as well.

America Needs Oil

Oil is the driver that has gotten civilization to where we are today. And, like it or not, civilization finds itself in greater need of petroleum as time goes on. Thus, the price of crude topped $50 per barrel a few months ago. Although the price declined a bit in recent days, it will only increase as time goes on; more and more third world countries - China! - will be in ever greater need.

We have the opportunity to increase our output. Relatively easily. Easing the world pressures on production. In Alaska. Unfortunately we have to depend on a handful of limp-wristed Republicans in Congress to make it happen.

I'm not excited about the prospects. But the oil is there - in abundance.
The U.S. Geological Survey reckoned in 1998 that ANWR is one of the largest untapped oil fields in the world. By declaring it off limits, the government is effectively taking between 6 billion and 16 billion barrels of oil off the market. (link)
As with the Social Security debate, I'm afraid the ANWR issue will not be resolved until it reaches crisis mode. Then all our illustrious leaders will act, and blame each other for having done nothing to head off the problem in the first place.

Right now, the only people benefitting from our inaction are the environmentalists, who rake in millions by decrying the destruction of our pristine national park wilderness, and the Saudis.
The principal beneficiaries of this self-mutilation are thus not cuddly Arctic mammals, but the less cuddly sheiks of the oil-producing Gulf states. The prohibition on drilling in ANWR helps maintain Saudi Arabia's power. A glance at Bob Woodward's "Plan of Attack," written with the cooperation of the White House, illustrates the Kingdom's capacity for exerting leverage by keeping oil production up and thus the economy buoyant. The gratitude of successive administrations has led them to agree to such ill-starred Saudi-backed adventures as the Taif Accords of 1989, which ratified Syrian tyranny in Lebanon, and the slowdown of de-Baathification in Iraq in 2003 and 2004.

Here is an inescapable fact of life: We will retrieve the oil from ANWR. We'll do it this decade. Or we will do it fifty years from now. But we will retrieve that oil. Those of you who think of yourselves as environmentalists should contemplate the alternatives. We can begin the planning and construction of facilities in Alaska with preservation of the region factored into the planning, or we can hastily throw equipment into ANWR when oil hits $600 a barrel and the entire world is clamoring for production (and for your scalp)..

It is up to you.