Friday, February 23, 2007

Pat Buchanan: The Sun Sets in the West

Again, although I'm chagrined to say it, Pat Buchanan makes more sense right now than any other pundit or "expert" on U.S. foreign policy.

The Sun Sets in the West

by Patrick J. Buchanan

Posted 02/23/2007 ET

The Brits are going home.

Forty thousand marched in beside the Americans. Only 7,100 remain; 1,600 will be heading home by Easter.

By August, the Danish force of 470 is to be withdrawn, as is the tiny Lithuanian unit. South Korea has 2,200 troops in the Kurdish north. Though they rarely leave base, 1,100 are to depart by August, the rest by year's end.

The Italians are gone. The Spanish pulled out after the Madrid bombings. Ukraine's 1,600 have departed. The Japanese have gone. Declaring the war "unjust and wrong," Slovakia's new prime minister just ordered home his country's contingent of 110 engineers.

Only the Americans are going deeper in. Aussies excepted, the "coalition of the willing" is no longer willing.

In Afghanistan, Americans, and Brits, Canadians and Dutch fight, as Germans, French and Italians do "reconstruction." In World War I, France, Italy and Germany lost 4 million men. In Afghanistan and Iraq, the three together have probably not lost 50.

Prime Minister Romano Prodi resigned Wednesday, when his plan to stay in Afghanistan and enlarge a U.S. base in Italy, lest refusal be seen as "a hostile act toward the U.S.A.," was rejected in the Senate.

Vice President Cheney hails Tony Blair's announced withdrawal of British troops as a sign of success. Yet, he says the Pelosi-Murtha plan to withdraw U.S. troops would only "validate the al-Qaida strategy."

The White House says the British pullout is an affirmation of our partnership, but the Brits could have sent those 1,600 to Baghdad or Anbar. They did not.

The Brits are leaving with mission unaccomplished. They are being shot at and mortared every day in Basra. Tribal and Shia militias have not been disarmed. The Sunni are being ethnically cleansed from the south. Militant Shia want the Brits gone, so they can take over.

The British people are bridling at the cost in blood and money of a war that destroyed Tony Blair, who is weeks away from resigning as prime minister. One British historian said at year's end he has never seen such levels of anti-Americanism in his country.

There is a larger meaning to all this, and Americans must come to terms with it. NATO is packing it in as a world power. NATO is little more than a U.S. guarantee to pull Europe's chestnuts out of the fire if Europeans encounter a fight they cannot handle, like an insurgency in Bosnia or Kosovo. NATO has one breadwinner, and 25 dependents.

At the end of the Cold War, internationalists like Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana declared, "NATO must go out of area, or go out of business." What Lugar meant was, with the Soviet threat lifted from Europe, NATO must shoulder more of the global burden.

But the Balkan crises of the 1990s showed that Europeans are not even up to policing their own playground. The Americans had to come in, gently push them aside and do the job. The message Europe is today sending to America, with the withdrawals from Iraq and the refusal of Italy, Germany and France to fight in Afghanistan:

"We are not going out of area again. If you Americans want to play empire, go right ahead. We will not again send our sons overseas to fight in regions of the world from which we withdrew half a century ago. You're on your own."

Where does this leave NATO? This leaves NATO as little more than a U.S. guarantee to go to war for the nations of Europe, while Europeans can be freeloading critics of U.S. policy around the world.

NATO is an expensive proposition. We maintain dozens of bases and scores of thousands of troops from Norway to the Balkans, from Spain to the Baltic republics, from the Black Sea to the Irish Sea.

What do we get for this? Why do we tax ourselves to defend rich nations who refuse to defend themselves? Is the security of Europe more important to us than to Europe?

In the early years of World Wars I and II, Europeans implored us to come save them from the Germans. We did. In the early Cold War, Europeans welcomed returning GIs who stood guard in the Fulda Gap.

Now, with the threat gone, the gratitude is gone. Now, with their welfare states eating up their wealth, their peoples aging, their cities filling up with militant migrants, they want America to continue defending them, as they sit in moral judgment on how we go about it.

This isn't an alliance. This isn't a partnership. Time to split the blanket. If they won't defend themselves, let them, as weaker nations have done to stronger states down through the ages, pay tribute.

Sixty years after World War II, 15 years after the Cold War, Europe's defense should become Europe's responsibility.

Lest we forget: How Bush Lied About Uranium from Niger

Bush lied about Uranium from Niger to help sell the case for invading Iraq. We can't put it any more clearly.

Below is the relevant excerpt from the following article...

A 'Concerted Effort' to Discredit Bush Critic
Prosecutor Describes Cheney, Libby as Key Voices Pitching Iraq-Niger Story
By Barton Gellman and Dafna Linzer | Washington Post
Sunday, April 9, 2006; A01


Iraq's alleged uranium shopping had been strongly disputed in the intelligence community from the start. In a closed Senate hearing in late September 2002, shortly before the October NIE was completed, then-director of central intelligence George J. Tenet and his top weapons analyst, Robert Walpole, expressed strong doubts about the uranium story, which had recently been unveiled publicly by the British government. The State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research, likewise, called the claim "highly dubious." For those reasons, the uranium story was relegated to a brief inside passage in the October estimate.

But the White House Iraq Group, formed in August 2002 to foster "public education" about Iraq's "grave and gathering danger" to the United States, repeatedly pitched the uranium story. The alleged procurement was a minor issue for most U.S. analysts -- the hard part for Iraq would be enriching uranium, not obtaining the ore, and Niger's controlled market made it an unlikely seller -- but the Niger story proved irresistible to speechwriters. Most nuclear arguments were highly technical, but the public could easily grasp the link between uranium and a bomb.

Tenet interceded to keep the claim out of a speech Bush gave in Cincinnati on Oct. 7, 2002, but by Dec. 19 it reappeared in a State Department "fact sheet." After that, the Pentagon asked for an authoritative judgment from the National Intelligence Council, the senior coordinating body for the 15 agencies that then constituted the U.S. intelligence community. Did Iraq and Niger discuss a uranium sale, or not? If they had, the Pentagon would need to reconsider its ties with Niger.

The council's reply, drafted in a January 2003 memo by the national intelligence officer for Africa, was unequivocal: The Niger story was baseless and should be laid to rest. Four U.S. officials with firsthand knowledge said in interviews that the memo, which has not been reported before, arrived at the White House as Bush and his highest-ranking advisers made the uranium story a centerpiece of their case for the rapidly approaching war against Iraq.

Bush put his prestige behind the uranium story in his Jan. 28, 2003, State of the Union address. Less than two months later, the International Atomic Energy Agency exposed the principal U.S. evidence as bogus. A Bush-appointed commission later concluded that the evidence, a set of contracts and correspondence sold by an Italian informant, was "transparently forged."

Lest we forget: How Bush Lied in Cincinnati

Remarks by the President on Iraq
Cincinnati Museum Center - Cincinnati Union Terminal
October 7, 2002

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all. Thank you for that very gracious and warm Cincinnati welcome. I'm honored to be here tonight; I appreciate you all coming.

Tonight I want to take a few minutes to discuss a grave threat to peace, and America's determination to lead the world in confronting that threat.

The threat comes from Iraq. It arises directly from the Iraqi regime's own actions -- its history of aggression, and its drive toward an arsenal of terror. Eleven years ago, as a condition for ending the Persian Gulf War, the Iraqi regime was required to destroy its weapons of mass destruction, to cease all development of such weapons, and to stop all support for terrorist groups. The Iraqi regime has violated all of those obligations. It possesses and produces chemical and biological weapons. It is seeking nuclear weapons. It has given shelter and support to terrorism, and practices terror against its own people. The entire world has witnessed Iraq's eleven-year history of defiance, deception and bad faith.
We also must never forget the most vivid events of recent history. On September the 11th, 2001, America felt its vulnerability -- even to threats that gather on the other side of the earth. We resolved then, and we are resolved today, to confront every threat, from any source, that could bring sudden terror and suffering to America.

[Bush was saying Iraq “could bring sudden terror and suffering to America.” This was a lie. Iraq had no such capability. This was deliberate scare-mongering. Unforgivable. – J]

Members of the Congress of both political parties, and members of the United Nations Security Council, agree that Saddam Hussein is a threat to peace and must disarm. We agree that the Iraqi dictator must not be permitted to threaten America and the world with horrible poisons and diseases and gases and atomic weapons. Since we all agree on this goal, the issues is: how can we best achieve it?

[How could Saddam have threatened America with WMD, even if he had them, which we now know he didn’t? He had no delivery system, no long-range ballistic missiles, no navy, no long-range bombers, and no terror networks inside the U.S.

Again, blatant lying and scare-mongering. Bush also implies that Saddam has atomic weapons; the grammar here is tricky, but it leaves the distinct impression in the listener’s mind that Saddam does have nukes. Clinton couldn’t have lied any better. – J

Many Americans have raised legitimate questions: about the nature of the threat; about the urgency of action -- why be concerned now; about the link between Iraq developing weapons of terror, and the wider war on terror. These are all issues we've discussed broadly and fully within my administration. And tonight, I want to share those discussions with you.

First, some ask why Iraq is different from other countries or regimes that also have terrible weapons. While there are many dangers in the world, the threat from Iraq stands alone -- because it gathers the most serious dangers of our age in one place. Iraq's weapons of mass destruction are controlled by a murderous tyrant who has already used chemical weapons to kill thousands of people. This same tyrant has tried to dominate the Middle East, has invaded and brutally occupied a small neighbor, has struck other nations without warning, and holds an unrelenting hostility toward the United States.

[Saddam was boxed in by the U.S. military. There were daily flyovers in the North and South. He couldn’t have invaded or threatened anybody. However, Saddam did use WMD against Iran in the 1980s with America’s full support. – J]

By its past and present actions, by its technological capabilities, by the merciless nature of its regime, Iraq is unique. As a former chief weapons inspector of the U.N. has said, "The fundamental problem with Iraq remains the nature of the regime, itself. Saddam Hussein is a homicidal dictator who is addicted to weapons of mass destruction."

Some ask how urgent this danger is to America and the world. The danger is already significant, and it only grows worse with time. If we know Saddam Hussein has dangerous weapons today -- and we do -- does it make any sense for the world to wait to confront him as he grows even stronger and develops even more dangerous weapons?

[Bush said “we know” Saddam had WMD. Yet we couldn’t find any. How could we “know” something for certain that turns out to be false? We can’t. That’s called a LIE. – J]

In 1995, after several years of deceit by the Iraqi regime, the head of Iraq's military industries defected. It was then that the regime was forced to admit that it had produced more than 30,000 liters of anthrax and other deadly biological agents. The inspectors, however, concluded that Iraq had likely produced two to four times that amount. This is a massive stockpile of biological weapons that has never been accounted for, and capable of killing millions.

[The weapons inspectors told Bush that inspections were working, that WMD had been destroyed (David Kay), or that its “shelf life” had expired (Scott Ritter). – J]

We know that the regime has produced thousands of tons of chemical agents, including mustard gas, sarin nerve gas, VX nerve gas. Saddam Hussein also has experience in using chemical weapons. He has ordered chemical attacks on Iran, and on more than forty villages in his own country. These actions killed or injured at least 20,000 people, more than six times the number of people who died in the attacks of September the 11th.

And surveillance photos reveal that the regime is rebuilding facilities that it had used to produce chemical and biological weapons. Every chemical and biological weapon that Iraq has or makes is a direct violation of the truce that ended the Persian Gulf War in 1991. Yet, Saddam Hussein has chosen to build and keep these weapons despite international sanctions, U.N. demands, and isolation from the civilized world.

[Where are those chemical and biological weapons facilities now? How come we couldn’t find them? To repeat, Saddam attacked Iran with WMD using U.S. satellite intelligence to increase their accuracy & lethality. – J]

Iraq possesses ballistic missiles with a likely range of hundreds of miles -- far enough to strike Saudi Arabia, Israel, Turkey, and other nations -- in a region where more than 135,000 American civilians and service members live and work.

We've also discovered through intelligence that Iraq has a growing fleet of manned and unmanned aerial vehicles that could be used to disperse chemical or biological weapons across broad areas. We're concerned that Iraq is exploring ways of using these UAVS for missions targeting the United States. And, of course, sophisticated delivery systems aren't required for a chemical or biological attack; all that might be required are a small container and one terrorist or Iraqi intelligence operative to deliver it.

[We never found these “manned and unmanned aerial vehicles," because they didn’t exist. And nobody has ever published any Iraqi plans showing that Saddam planned to use these non-existent unmanned vehicles against America. Again, Bush was LYING.

“But it was all the CIA’s fault, they gave Bush faulty intelligence!” Bush boosters retort. So, if the CIA messed up so badly, why did Bush give George Tenet the Presidential Medal even after no WMD turned up? That would be “hush money.” – J]

And that is the source of our urgent concern about Saddam Hussein's links to international terrorist groups. Over the years, Iraq has provided safe haven to terrorists such as Abu Nidal, whose terror organization carried out more than 90 terrorist attacks in 20 countries that killed or injured nearly 900 people, including 12 Americans. Iraq has also provided safe haven to Abu Abbas, who was responsible for seizing the Achille Lauro and killing an American passenger. And we know that Iraq is continuing to finance terror and gives assistance to groups that use terrorism to undermine Middle East peace.

We know that Iraq and the al Qaeda terrorist network share a common enemy -- the United States of America. We know that Iraq and al Qaeda have had high-level contacts that go back a decade. Some al Qaeda leaders who fled Afghanistan went to Iraq. These include one very senior al Qaeda leader who received medical treatment in Baghdad this year, and who has been associated with planning for chemical and biological attacks. We've learned that Iraq has trained al Qaeda members in bomb-making and poisons and deadly gases. And we know that after September the 11th, Saddam Hussein's regime gleefully celebrated the terrorist attacks on America.

[These “close ties” between al Qaeda and Iraq were all debunked by the CIA and other Western intelligence agencies BEFORE the invasion. Bush ignored their judgments. – J]

Iraq could decide on any given day to provide a biological or chemical weapon to a terrorist group or individual terrorists. Alliance with terrorists could allow the Iraqi regime to attack America without leaving any fingerprints.

Some have argued that confronting the threat from Iraq could detract from the war against terror. To the contrary; confronting the threat posed by Iraq is crucial to winning the war on terror. When I spoke to Congress more than a year ago, I said that those who harbor terrorists are as guilty as the terrorists themselves. Saddam Hussein is harboring terrorists and the instruments of terror, the instruments of mass death and destruction. And he cannot be trusted. The risk is simply too great that he will use them, or provide them to a terror network.
Terror cells and outlaw regimes building weapons of mass destruction are different faces of the same evil. Our security requires that we confront both. And the United States military is capable of confronting both.

Many people have asked how close Saddam Hussein is to developing a nuclear weapon. Well, we don't know exactly, and that's the problem. Before the Gulf War, the best intelligence indicated that Iraq was eight to ten years away from developing a nuclear weapon. After the war, international inspectors learned that the regime has been much closer -- the regime in Iraq would likely have possessed a nuclear weapon no later than 1993. The inspectors discovered that Iraq had an advanced nuclear weapons development program, had a design for a workable nuclear weapon, and was pursuing several different methods of enriching uranium for a bomb.

Before being barred from Iraq in 1998, the International Atomic Energy Agency dismantled extensive nuclear weapons-related facilities, including three uranium enrichment sites. That same year, information from a high-ranking Iraqi nuclear engineer who had defected revealed that despite his public promises, Saddam Hussein had ordered his nuclear program to continue.

The evidence indicates that Iraq is reconstituting its nuclear weapons program. Saddam Hussein has held numerous meetings with Iraqi nuclear scientists, a group he calls his "nuclear mujahideen" -- his nuclear holy warriors. Satellite photographs reveal that Iraq is rebuilding facilities at sites that have been part of its nuclear program in the past. Iraq has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes and other equipment needed for gas centrifuges, which are used to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons.

If the Iraqi regime is able to produce, buy, or steal an amount of highly enriched uranium a little larger than a single softball, it could have a nuclear weapon in less than a year. And if we allow that to happen, a terrible line would be crossed. Saddam Hussein would be in a position to blackmail anyone who opposes his aggression. He would be in a position to dominate the Middle East. He would be in a position to threaten America. And Saddam Hussein would be in a position to pass nuclear technology to terrorists.

[Where were Saddam’s nuclear weapons facilities? If we had satellite photos of them, why didn’t we find them after we invaded? Because they didn’t exist. Bush LIED. – J]

Some citizens wonder, after 11 years of living with this problem, why do we need to confront it now? And there's a reason. We've experienced the horror of September the 11th. We have seen that those who hate America are willing to crash airplanes into buildings full of innocent people. Our enemies would be no less willing, in fact, they would be eager, to use biological or chemical, or a nuclear weapon.

Knowing these realities, America must not ignore the threat gathering against us. Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof -- the smoking gun -- that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud. As President Kennedy said in October of 1962, "Neither the United States of America, nor the world community of nations can tolerate deliberate deception and offensive threats on the part of any nation, large or small. We no longer live in a world," he said, "where only the actual firing of weapons represents a sufficient challenge to a nations security to constitute maximum peril."

[This comment was unforgivable. Bush put the image of a nuclear “mushroom cloud” from non-existent nukes in America’s mind. Blatant scare-mongering. If you’re going to scare the shit out of your fellow citizens, you BETTER BE SURE YOU’RE RIGHT. Bush fudged the intel, revived disproven claims, and sold it as certainty enough for WAR. That is called LYING. – J]

Understanding the threats of our time, knowing the designs and deceptions of the Iraqi regime, we have every reason to assume the worst, and we have an urgent duty to prevent the worst from occurring.

Some believe we can address this danger by simply resuming the old approach to inspections, and applying diplomatic and economic pressure. Yet this is precisely what the world has tried to do since 1991. The U.N. inspections program was met with systematic deception. The Iraqi regime bugged hotel rooms and offices of inspectors to find where they were going next; they forged documents, destroyed evidence, and developed mobile weapons facilities to keep a step ahead of inspectors. Eight so-called presidential palaces were declared off-limits to unfettered inspections. These sites actually encompass twelve square miles, with hundreds of structures, both above and below the ground, where sensitive materials could be hidden.

The world has also tried economic sanctions -- and watched Iraq use billions of dollars in illegal oil revenues to fund more weapons purchases, rather than providing for the needs of the Iraqi people.

[The inspectors already told us that inspections were working. Hans Blix, chief UN weapons inspector, was against the invasion. Shouldn’t that have told us anything?? – J ]

The world has tried limited military strikes to destroy Iraq's weapons of mass destruction capabilities -- only to see them openly rebuilt, while the regime again denies they even exist.

[Firing at us with old-fashioned artillery that had no chance of hitting our planes! Not a single plane was shot down, so that’s zero for 750 tries. Come on! – J]

After eleven years during which we have tried containment, sanctions, inspections, even selected military action, the end result is that Saddam Hussein still has chemical and biological weapons and is increasing his capabilities to make more. And he is moving ever closer to developing a nuclear weapon.

[Again, Bush brings us back to WMD as the reason for invasion. And there were no WMD. – J]

Clearly, to actually work, any new inspections, sanctions or enforcement mechanisms will have to be very different. America wants the U.N. to be an effective organization that helps keep the peace. And that is why we are urging the Security Council to adopt a new resolution setting out tough, immediate requirements. Among those requirements: the Iraqi regime must reveal and destroy, under U.N. supervision, all existing weapons of mass destruction. To ensure that we learn the truth, the regime must allow witnesses to its illegal activities to be interviewed outside the country -- and these witnesses must be free to bring their families with them so they all beyond the reach of Saddam Hussein's terror and murder. And inspectors must have access to any site, at any time, without pre-clearance, without delay, without exceptions.

The time for denying, deceiving, and delaying has come to an end. Saddam Hussein must disarm himself -- or, for the sake of peace, we will lead a coalition to disarm him.

Many nations are joining us in insisting that Saddam Hussein's regime be held accountable. They are committed to defending the international security that protects the lives of both our citizens and theirs. And that's why America is challenging all nations to take the resolutions of the U.N. Security Council seriously.

And these resolutions are clear. In addition to declaring and destroying all of its weapons of mass destruction, Iraq must end its support for terrorism. It must cease the persecution of its civilian population. It must stop all illicit trade outside the Oil For Food program. It must release or account for all Gulf War personnel, including an American pilot, whose fate is still unknown.

By taking these steps, and by only taking these steps, the Iraqi regime has an opportunity to avoid conflict. Taking these steps would also change the nature of the Iraqi regime itself. America hopes the regime will make that choice. Unfortunately, at least so far, we have little reason to expect it. And that's why two administrations -- mine and President Clinton's -- have stated that regime change in Iraq is the only certain means of removing a great danger to our nation.

I hope this will not require military action, but it may. And military conflict could be difficult. An Iraqi regime faced with its own demise may attempt cruel and desperate measures. If Saddam Hussein orders such measures, his generals would be well advised to refuse those orders. If they do not refuse, they must understand that all war criminals will be pursued and punished. If we have to act, we will take every precaution that is possible. We will plan carefully; we will act with the full power of the United States military; we will act with allies at our side, and we will prevail. (Applause.)

There is no easy or risk-free course of action. Some have argued we should wait -- and that's an option. In my view, it's the riskiest of all options, because the longer we wait, the stronger and bolder Saddam Hussein will become. We could wait and hope that Saddam does not give weapons to terrorists, or develop a nuclear weapon to blackmail the world. But I'm convinced that is a hope against all evidence. As Americans, we want peace -- we work and sacrifice for peace. But there can be no peace if our security depends on the will and whims of a ruthless and aggressive dictator. I'm not willing to stake one American life on trusting Saddam Hussein.

Failure to act would embolden other tyrants, allow terrorists access to new weapons and new resources, and make blackmail a permanent feature of world events. The United Nations would betray the purpose of its founding, and prove irrelevant to the problems of our time. And through its inaction, the United States would resign itself to a future of fear.

That is not the America I know. That is not the America I serve . We refuse to live in fear. (Applause.) This nation, in world war and in Cold War, has never permitted the brutal and lawless to set history's course. Now, as before, we will secure our nation, protect our freedom, and help others to find freedom of their own.

[That’s rich! “We refuse to live in fear”! What else has Bush done in this speech but scare Americans with non-existent threats! This speech is pathological. – J]

Some worry that a change of leadership in Iraq could create instability and make the situation worse. The situation could hardly get worse, for world security and for the people of Iraq. The lives of Iraqi citizens would improve dramatically if Saddam Hussein were no longer in power, just as the lives of Afghanistan's citizens improved after the Taliban. The dictator of Iraq is a student of Stalin, using murder as a tool of terror and control, within his own cabinet, within his own army, and even within his own family.

[Bush spoke with such certainty, and boy, he was so wrong! As his critics feared, invasion did make Iraq more unstable, and did make Iraqis’ lives worse. Even now they want us to leave but we won’t. Hooray for us…. – J]

On Saddam Hussein's orders, opponents have been decapitated, wives and mothers of political opponents have been systematically raped as a method of intimidation, and political prisoners have been forced to watch their own children being tortured.

America believes that all people are entitled to hope and human rights, to the non-negotiable demands of human dignity. People everywhere prefer freedom to slavery; prosperity to squalor; self-government to the rule of terror and torture. America is a friend to the people of Iraq. Our demands are directed only at the regime that enslaves them and threatens us. When these demands are met, the first and greatest benefit will come to Iraqi men, women and children. The oppression of Kurds, Assyrians, Turkomans, Shi'a, Sunnis and others will be lifted. The long captivity of Iraq will end, and an era of new hope will begin.

[No, Iraqis were the first to suffer. – J]

Iraq is a land rich in culture, resources, and talent. Freed from the weight of oppression, Iraq's people will be able to share in the progress and prosperity of our time. If military action is necessary, the United States and our allies will help the Iraqi people rebuild their economy, and create the institutions of liberty in a unified Iraq at peace with its neighbors.

Later this week, the United States Congress will vote on this matter. I have asked Congress to authorize the use of America's military, if it proves necessary, to enforce U.N. Security Council demands. Approving this resolution does not mean that military action is imminent or unavoidable. The resolution will tell the United Nations, and all nations, that America speaks with one voice and is determined to make the demands of the civilized world mean something. Congress will also be sending a message to the dictator in Iraq: that his only chance -- his only choice is full compliance, and the time remaining for that choice is limited.

[In Hillary’s defense, Bush himself says that this Congressional resolution, which is now considered the resolution for war against Iraq, did “not mean that military action [was] imminent or unavoidable.” We now know, thanks to the Downing Street Memos and former Administration staff, that Bush had planned on war all along, no matter what. Bush openly deceived Congress; he told them that their vote was for war as a last resort, when in fact it was for war at all costs. Bush LIED to Congress. – J]

Members of Congress are nearing an historic vote. I'm confident they will fully consider the facts, and their duties.

The attacks of September the 11th showed our country that vast oceans no longer protect us from danger. Before that tragic date, we had only hints of al Qaeda's plans and designs. Today in Iraq, we see a threat whose outlines are far more clearly defined, and whose consequences could be far more deadly. Saddam Hussein's actions have put us on notice, and there is no refuge from our responsibilities.

We did not ask for this present challenge, but we accept it. Like other generations of Americans, we will meet the responsibility of defending human liberty against violence and aggression. By our resolve, we will give strength to others. By our courage, we will give hope to others. And by our actions, we will secure the peace, and lead the world to a better day.

May God bless America. (Applause.)

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Taibbi: Bush's budget is a new kind of politics

THE LOW POST: Medicare vs. Britney

Why a brainless Mouseketeer gets more ink than the federal budget


"Now, after she shaved her head in a bizarre episode that culminates a months-long saga of controversial behavior, it's the question being asked by her fans, her foes and the general public: What was she thinking?"

-- Bald and Broken: Inside Britney's Shaved Head, Sheila Marikar,, Feb. 19

What was she thinking? How about nothing? How about who gives a shit? How's that for an answer, Sheila Marikar of ABC News?

I'm not one of those curmudgeons who freaks out every time that Brangelina moves the war off the front page of the Post, or Katie Couric decides to usher in a whole new era of network news with photos of the imbecile demon-spawn of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes. I understand that we live in a demand-based economy and that there is far more demand for brainless celebrity bullshit than there is, say, for the fine print of the Health and Human Services budget.

But that was before this week. I awoke this morning in New York City to find Britney Spears plastered all over the cover of two gigantic daily newspapers, simply because she cut her hair off over the weekend. To me, this crosses a line. My definition of a news story involves something happening. If nothing happens, then you can't have "news," because nothing has changed since the day before. Britney Spears was an idiot last Thursday, an idiot on Friday and an idiot on both Saturday and Sunday. She was, shockingly, also an idiot on Monday. It will be news when she stops being an idiot, and we'll know when that happens, because she'll have disappeared for the good of the planet. Britney Spears cutting her hair off is the least-worthy front-page news story in the history of humanity. Apparently, from now on, every time a jackass sticks a pencil in his own eye, we'll have to wait an extra ten minutes to hear what happened on the battlefield or in Congress or any other place that actually matters.

On the same day that Britney was shaving her head, a guy I know who works in the office of Senator Bernie Sanders sent me an email. He was trying very hard to get news organizations interested in some research his office had done about George Bush's proposed 2008 budget, which was unveiled two weeks ago and received relatively little press, mainly because of the controversy over the Iraq war resolution. All the same, the Bush budget is an amazing document. It would be hard to imagine a document that more clearly articulates the priorities of our current political elite.

Not only does it make many of Bush's tax cuts permanent, but it envisions a complete repeal of the Estate Tax, which mainly affects only those who are in the top two-tenths of the top one percent of the richest people in this country. The proposed savings from the cuts over the next decade are about $442 billion, or just slightly less than the amount of the annual defense budget (minus Iraq war expenses). But what's interesting about these cuts are how Bush plans to pay for them.

Sanders's office came up with some interesting numbers here. If the Estate Tax were to be repealed completely, the estimated savings to just one family -- the Walton family, the heirs to the Wal-Mart fortune -- would be about $32.7 billion dollars over the next ten years.

The proposed reductions to Medicaid over the same time frame? $28 billion. Or how about this: If the Estate Tax goes, the heirs to the Mars candy corporation -- some of the world's evilest scumbags, incidentally, routinely ripped by human rights organizations for trafficking in child labor to work cocoa farms in places like Cote D'Ivoire -- will receive about $11.7 billion in tax breaks. That's more than three times the amount Bush wants to cut from the VA budget ($3.4 billion) over the same time period.

Some other notable estimate estate tax breaks, versus corresponding cuts:


Cox family (Cox cable TV): Receives $9.7 billion tax break


Education: $1.5 billion in cuts


Nordstrom family (Nordstrom dept. stores): Receives $826.5 million tax break


Comm. Service Block Grant: Eliminated; $630 million cut


Ernest Gallo family (shitty wines): Receives $468.4 million break


LIHEAP (heating oil to poor): $420 million cut

And so on and so on. Sanders additionally pointed out that the family of former Exxon/Mobil CEO Lee Raymond, who received a $400 million retirement package, would receive about $164 million in tax breaks. Compare that to the Commodity Supplemental Food Program, which Bush proposes be completely eliminated, at a savings of $108 million over ten years. The program sent one bag of groceries per month to 480,000 seniors, mothers and newborn children.

Somehow, to me, that's the worst one on the list. Here you have the former CEO of a company that scored record profits even as it gouged consumers, with gas prices rising more than 70 percent since January of 2001. There is a direct correlation between the avarice of oil company executives and the increased demand for federal aid for heating oil programs like LIHEAP, and yet the federal government wants to reward these same executives for raising prices on the backs of consumers.

Even if you're a traditional, Barry Goldwater conservative, the kinds of budgets that Bush has sent to the Hill not only this year but this whole century are the worst-case scenario; they increase spending generally while cutting taxes and social programming. They commit taxpayers to giant subsidies of already Croseus-rich energy corporations, pharmaceutical companies and defense manufacturers while simultaneously cutting taxes on those who most directly benefit from those subsidies. Thus you're not cutting spending -- you're just cutting spending on people who actually need the money. (According to the Washington Times, which in a supremely ironic twist of fate did one of the better analyses of the budget, spending will be 1.6 percent of GDP higher in the 2008 budget than in was in 2000, while revenues will be 2.6 percent of GDP lower). This is something different from traditional conservatism and something different from big-government liberalism; this is a new kind of politics that transforms the state into a huge, ever-expanding instrument for converting private savings into corporate profit.

That's not only bad government, it's bad capitalism. It makes legalized bribery and political connections more important factors than performance and competition in the corporate marketplace. Beyond that, it's just plain f-ing offensive to ordinary people. It's one thing to complain about paying taxes when those taxes are buying a bag of groceries once a month for some struggling single mom in eastern Kentucky. But when your taxes are buying a yacht for some asshole who hires African eight year-olds to pick cocoa beans for two cents an hour... I sure don't remember reading an excuse for that anywhere in the Federalist Papers.

I also don't remember reading much about this year's budget. It was a story for about half a minute when it came out two weeks ago. It barely made TV newscasts, and even when it did, only the broad strokes made it on air. There was some fuss about the Alternative Minimum Tax and a mild uproar over the fact that the 2008 budget failed to account for estimates of the costs for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But overall, the budget was a non-starter as a news story. As it does every year, it takes a back seat to hot-button issues like gay marriage, the latest election scandal, etc. Already, the 2008 election presidential campaign has gotten far more ink than the 2008 budget. As entertainment, bullshit politics always triumphs over real politics.

Here's the thing about the system of news coverage we have today. If the Walton family, or Lee Raymond, or the heirs to the Mars fortune actually needed the news media to work better than it does now, believe me, it would work better. But they have no such need, because the system is working just fine for them as is. The people it's failing are the rest of us, and most of the rest of us, apparently, would rather sniff Anna Nicole Smith's corpse or watch Britney Spears hump a fire hydrant than find out what our tax dollars are actually paying for.

Shit, when you think about it that way, why not steal from us? People that dumb don't deserve to have money.

Utah rampage shooter: Muslim, or All-American?

FOX and some others are saying there's some kind of media blackout or double standard in the coverage of Bosnian-born rampage shooter Suljeman Talovic, who was Muslim. Why aren't the media emphasizing his religion, they demand to know?

Wrote one blogger: "The mainstream media seems to cover up Muslim terrorism with their PC-style — very much like a full burqa cover-up." On a Free Republic forum and elsewhere, they're speculating on hearsay that Talovic shouted "Allahu Akbhar!"

But the fact that Talovic was Muslim seems to appear, in one way or another, in every news story I've seen. It hasn't been hidden… or at least, everyone seems to know about it. At any rate, without evidence that his killing spree was religiously motivated, why should his religion be emphasized?

We don't go out of our way to point out that most rampage murderers are white Christians, or were at least raised Christian. Is this fact relevant?

In fact, the FBI quickly ruled out terrorism, Muslim or otherwise, as an explanation. Said FBI agent Patrick Kiernan, "It's just unexplainable." That kind of bafflement after such a murder spree sounds oddly, sadly familiar, doesn't it?

The FBI's opinion didn't matter though to Investor's Business Daily, which coined a new term for Talovic's "Muslim-inspired" murder spree: Sudden Jihad Syndrome. Without any evidence to support it, IBD concluded ominously:
"We're likely to see more of these seemingly random domestic attacks. They may seem isolated, but all have radical Islam at their nexus. They're not 'senseless' or 'utterly inexplicable' or 'impossible to rationalize,' as the media intone. They are purposeful. These men act as conscripts called up for a mission, sick as it is."
Only The New York Times' coverage put the Talovic shooting story in the proper context, simply, by reporting in the same article on "Other Fatal Shootings" the next day: (1) in Phoenix an 84-year-old man fatally shot his granddaughter and a 16-year-old friend of his grandson who was staying with the family, after the shooter got into an argument with his grandson, 20, about the friend; and (2) in Philadelphia a gunman killed three men at a board of directors meeting, wounded another, then shot and killed himself, over "some issue about money."

The black irony of Talovic's murder-rampage is that it shows just how "American" he had become. Murderous shooting sprees at work places, malls, and schools happen all the time in America, dozens per year. They've become so common that we hardly hear about them anymore.

In response to FOX and conservative bloggers, who are wrong, I say the only reason Talovic got national media coverage was precisely because he was Bosnian and Muslim, and shot a bunch of white Christians in Utah. The media loves stark "us and them" contrasts. But the national media ignore the "mundane" murder rampages that happen every week (usually white-on-white), which are only covered locally.

Guns and gun crime are all too common, and unfortunately, all too American. A hardened cynic might say that on February 12, 2007, Bosnian war refugee Talovic passed his final citizenship test. Alas, he was one of us.

Why No Mention That Salt Lake Shooter Was Muslim?
By John Gibson
February 20, 2007 | FOXNews

Remember that story of the shooter in Salt Lake City who opened up on shoppers last week? He was killed by an off-duty cop who heard shots and ran to confront the shooter.

Eighteen-year-old Sulejmen Talovic showed up at the mall in Salt Lake and began shooting people at random. He killed five and wounded several others.

The story died as fast as the victims. You had to wonder why. Yes, I know Anna Nicole knocked all stories off the air, but usually we dig down deep when it comes to these teenage shooters. We want to know if they played "Grand Theft Auto," if they were loners, blah, blah, blah.

This time even the papers were relatively muted in their coverage. For instance, you probably didn't notice much coverage over the fact the shooter was Muslim, did you? No, they didn't say much about that.

Talovic was from Bosnia. He was a Muslim. He attended a mosque in Salt Lake and he was reported to have been shouting "Allah Akbar" at the end of the shootout when he was cornered, at least according to some witnesses.

So why do we get all prissy about the fact that he was a Muslim? Do we think that European Muslims don't do terrorism? That his Muslim religion was just another fact in all the other facts about him?

We probably certainly wish that were true, but we don't know because nobody looks into it much. Sure, maybe some of the reason is Anna Nicole, but I sense a chill in the air coming from the Council on American-Islamic Relations and others who think it would be racist and bigoted of us to notice he was a Muslim and wonder if maybe his religion was a motivating factor in his act of terror.

The New York Times dropped a hint when it mentioned Islamic burial rites. Hmmm, the savvy reader might have said to him or herself, I just wonder what the mosque had to do with this deadly outburst?

But never mind I said it. I don't want to get in trouble. I know it's wrong to ask if his faith had anything to do with his killing spree. Forget I mentioned it.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Jimmy Carter: Not waiting for Big Gov't to act

Do-gooders can be annoying and sanctimonious, as Jimmy Carter sometimes is, but he's also the real deal. Although typecast as the prototypical liberal bogeyman, he puts conservatives' Christian ideals into practice. Habitat for Humanity is another example of Carter not waiting for government to take action.

If only high profile conservatives would spend more of their time and money making the world a better place through private charity, instead of yapping about the evils of "Big Gubument"!...

Torture by Worms

February 18, 2007
The New York Times

JIMMA, Ethiopia

Presidents are supposed to be strong, and on his latest visit to Africa Jimmy Carter proved himself strong enough to weep.

The first stop of Mr. Carter's four-nation African trip was Ghana, where he visited his projects to wipe out the Guinea worm, a horrendous two-foot-long parasite that lives inside the body and finally pops out, causing excruciating pain.

Mr. Carter was shaken by the victims he met, including a 57-year-old woman with a Guinea worm coming out of her nipple.

"She and her medical attendants said she had another coming out her genitals between her legs, and one each coming out of both feet," Mr. Carter added. "And so she had four Guinea worms emerging simultaneously."

"Little 3-, 4- and 5-year-old children were screaming uncontrollably with pain" because of the worms emerging from their flesh, Mr. Carter said. "I cried, along with the children."

We tend to think of human rights in terms of a right to vote, a right to free speech, a right to assembly. But a child should also have a right not to suffer agony because of a worm that is easily preventable, as well as a right not to go blind because of a lack of medication that costs a dollar or two, even a right not to die for lack of a $5 mosquito net.

As president, Mr. Carter put the issue of human rights squarely on the national agenda. Now Mr. Carter argues — and he's dead right — that we conceive of human rights too narrowly as political and civil rights, and that we also need to fight for the human right of children to live healthy lives.

He has led the way in waging that battle. Because of Mr. Carter's two-decade battle against Guinea worm disease, it is expected to be eradicated worldwide within the next five years. It will be the first ailment to be eliminated since smallpox in 1977, and it has become a race between the worm and the ex-president to see who outlasts the other.

"I'm determined to live long enough to see no cases of Guinea worm anywhere in the world," Mr. Carter said as he walked in blue jeans through a couple of villages in a remote corner of southwestern Ethiopia, the third country of his African tour.

After leaving the White House, Mr. Carter ended up "adopting" diseases like Guinea worm disease, river blindness, elephantiasis, trachoma and schistosomiasis that afflict the world's most voiceless people. These are horrific diseases that cause unimaginable suffering, yet they rarely get attention, treatment or research funding because their victims are impoverished and invisible.

When Mr. Carter met with Mohammad Zia ul-Haq, then Pakistan's president, President Zia had never heard of Guinea worm and didn't know it existed in Pakistan. Nor did his health minister. But after Mr. Carter put the issue on the agenda, Pakistan worked energetically with the Carter Center to eliminate the parasite in that country.

The villages here in Ethiopia that Mr. Carter visited cradle a fast-moving creek, making a lovely image of thatch huts and bubbling water. But the creek is home to the black flies whose bites spread the parasite that causes river blindness, leading to unbearable itching and often eventually to blindness.

"It's almost impossible to imagine the suffering of people with river blindness," Mr. Carter said as he traipsed through the village beside his wife, Rosalynn.

Already, Mr. Carter's campaign is making huge progress against the disease.

Kemeru Befita, a woman washing her clothes in the creek near Mr. Carter, told me that two of her children had caught river blindness in the last couple of months. After a visit to the witch doctor didn't help, she took them to a clinic where — thanks to Mr. Carter's program — they received medicine that killed the baby worms. They are two of the nearly 10 million people to whom the Carter Center gave medication last year alone, who won't go blind.

At the end of the day, this one-term president who left office a pariah in his own party will transform the lives of more people in more places over a longer period of time than any other recent president. And I hope that he can also transform our conception of human rights, so that we show an interest not only in the human rights of people suffering from the oppression of dictators, but also from the even more brutal tyranny of blindness, malaria and worms.

U.S. Maternity Leave Policies 'Among Worst'

U.S. Policies on Maternity Leave 'Among the Worst'

Monday, February 19, 2007

By: Tamara Schweitzer

The United States is one of only five countries that does not provide or require employers to provide some form of paid maternity leave, placing it behind a majority of the world when it comes to instituting family-oriented job policies, according to a new study.

In a study from McGill University's Institute for Health and Social Policy, the United States, Lesotho, Liberia, Swaziland, and Papua New Guinea were the only countries out of 173 studied that didn't guarantee any paid leave for mothers. Among the 168 countries that do, 98 offer 14 or more weeks of paid leave.

Overall, the study's other major findings indicate that workplace policies in the United States for families — such as paid sick days and support for breast-feeding — are weaker than those in all high-income countries as well as many middle and low-income countries.

"More countries are providing the workplace protections that millions of Americans can only dream of," Jody Heymann, director of McGill's Institute for Health and Social Policy, who led study, said in a statement.

At least 145 countries provide paid sick days for short- and long-term illnesses, with 127 countries providing for a week or more every year, the study found. In addition, 137 countries require its employers to provide paid annual leave, whereas the Unites States does not guarantee any sort of paid leave.

Under the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, U.S. workers are allowed to take up to 12 weeks leave for to tend to family or medical needs, but their absence is unpaid.

States are beginning to take more of an initiative on this front, human-resources experts say. For example, California has passed legislation for paid family leave — called the State Disability Insurance Program, which entitles employees a maximum of six weeks of partial pay per year to care for a newborn or other family matters.

While U.S. companies are moving in the way of providing more family-friendly workplace policies, many currently provide alternative forms of payment through their short-term disability programs. For example, having a baby can be considered a qualifying condition for getting paid disability leave.

The release of the study was appropriately timed with discussions in Washington over whether to consider new legislation that would enforce paid leaves. On Feb. 1, Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., who authored the Family and Medical Leave Act, proposed new legislation that would expand the act by providing at least six weeks of paid leave for workers.

"Besides our nation's families, our nation's economy, its production, and its competitiveness are threatened when families are forced to choose between the job they need and the family they love," Dodd said in a statement announcing the legislation. "FMLA was a milestone in our nation's dialogue, acknowledging that families, workforce production and competitiveness are not mutually exclusive."

The United States also lags behind in protecting working women's right to breastfeed. At least 107 countries grant women the right to breastfeed, and in 73 of those countries, the breaks are paid, the study found. The United States does not have any protections in place for women who want to breastfeed.

The only area where U.S. job policies were more favorable compared to other countries was in regard to guaranteeing higher pay for overtime work and non-discriminatory hiring policies, researchers found.

"The U.S. has been a proud leader in adopting law that provide for equal opportunity in the workplace, but our work/family protections are among the worst," Heymann said. "It's time for a change."

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Mummified: Could this be you?

Or almost you?

Myself, I'm guilty of it, no question.

According to the U.S. Labor Dept., t
he average American watches 2.6 hours of TV a day, compared to 45 minutes per day socializing and visiting with friends. (BTW, you never see the friends on Friends watching TV, do you? Who would watch them do that?)

A healthy civil society starts with getting our butts off the sofa and out of the house -- and not just to shop!

Mummified body found in front of blaring TV

NEW YORK (Reuters) -- Police called to a Long Island man's house discovered the mummified remains of the resident, dead for more than a year, sitting in front of a blaring television set.

The 70-year-old Hampton Bays, New York, resident, identified as Vincenzo Ricardo, appeared to have died of natural causes. Police said on Saturday his body was discovered on Thursday when they went to the house to investigate a report of a burst water pipe.

"You could see his face. He still had hair on his head," Newsday quoted morgue assistant Jeff Bacchus as saying. The home's low humidity had preserved the body.

Officials could not explain why the electricity had not been turned off, considering Ricardo had not been heard from since December 2005.

Neighbors said when they had not seen Ricardo, who was diabetic and had been blind for years, they assumed he was in the hospital or a long-term care facility.

Ex-diplomat: Iraq rebuilding plan a failure

You can't re-build a country while it's at war.

Ex-envoy says Iraq rebuilding plan won't work

By Sue Pleming

Reuters | Sat Feb 17, 10:32 AM ET

Kiki Munshi was showcased by the media in September as a seasoned U.S. diplomat who came out of retirement to lead a rebuilding group in Iraq.

Now she is back home, angry, and convinced that President George W. Bush's new strategy of doubling the number of such groups to 20 along with a troop surge of 21,500 will not help stabilize Iraq.

A diplomat for 22 years, she quit her job last month as leader of a Provincial Reconstruction Team -- groups made up of about 50 civilian and military experts that try to help Iraqi communities build their own government while strengthening moderates.

"In spite of the magnificent and often heroic work being done out there by a lot of truly wonderful people, the PRTs themselves aren't succeeding. The obstacles are too great," Munshi said this week in Washington, where she was pressing her view at the State Department and to Congress.

"Once again we are proceeding to lay people's lives on a line drawn with faulty information. Once again the fantasies of the 'policy-makers' drive decisions without much link to the realities on the ground," said Munshi, who retired from the foreign service in 2002 .

Her postings included Romania, India and Sierra Leone before Iraq, where Munshi said he had felt a "moral obligation to sort out the mess we have made there."

An audit by the special inspector general for Iraq last October found similar problems with the PRTs to those listed by Munshi, including an "ever-changing security situation, the difficulty of integrating civilian and military personnel, the lack of a finalized agreement on PRT operational requirements and responsibilities."


Members of Congress have also been critical of the program, which suffered early on from not being able to attract enough civilian staff and a dispute between the State and Defense departments over who would provide security for the teams.

The Bush administration rejects Munshi's views and the State Department said the expanded PRT plan was more focused, requiring team members to do pre-deployment training and with a clear goal of bolstering moderates and sidelining militants.

"We have been very mindful of the problems our PRT leaders have reported to us. We have worked very hard to streamline it," said Barbara Stephenson, the deputy coordinator for Iraq at the State Department, which oversees the PRT plan.

Munshi said the PRT plan was ill-conceived, under-funded and poorly staffed.

She said security was so bad that the council in the town in Diyala province where she was based had not had a quorum since last October and that death squads were rife.

PRT members found it hard to meet with Iraqis because of intimidation, she said, giving the example of training sessions that had been canceled because of poor security.

The PRTs are embedded with the military, a tactic Munshi says has varying results depending on the ability of the unit.

"All the PRTs embedded with the military are subject to the vicissitudes of military fortune, for good or ill," she said.

But the State Department countered that Munshi's experiences were not repeated in all the provinces and set up interviews with two PRT leaders who said while there were difficulties, they believed their work was making an impact.

Stephanie Miley, a PRT leader in the Iraqi town of Tikrit, said her teams managed to get out to see Iraqi officials five or six times a week but security issues meant they could not stay for long.

"I just hope that people will recognize that this is not something we will achieve overnight," she said.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Economic deja vu: The 90's all over again?

The difference this time is that Bush's economic expansion is 100% thanks to his tax cuts, whereas the 90's unequalled period of uninterrupted economic growth had nothing to do with Clinton's low deficits and HIGHER taxes.

In other words, Bush is a macro-economic genius, Clinton just got lucky.

Déjà vu for the U.S. economic cycle

By Eduardo Porter and Jeremy W. Peters

Monday, February 12, 2007 | The New York Times

It is five years into an economic expansion and most Americans are still waiting for their share. Inflation is swallowing pay raises. Businesses are hiring, but forecasters worry the economy may be about to stall. "If this is a recovery," the leader of the political opposition complains, "I can hardly wait for the recession."

This may sound like the stuff of headlines today. But it comes from 1996, when Bill Clinton was president and his rival was Bob Dole, the Republican nominee. The economic expansion in question, which got off to a sputtering start in March 1991, was to become the longest period of uninterrupted growth in U.S. history.

Now, half a decade into an expansion that officially started in November 2001, the economy is showing remarkable parallels with what it looked like about a decade ago.

"It's striking how similar they are," said Robert Gordon, an economics professor at Northwestern University.

The overall rate of growth has followed a trajectory almost identical to the first five years of the 1990s expansion. Now, as then, corporate profits have surged; the stock market has, too. But just as workers have finally begun to reap some of the spoils of a growing economy, many forecasters worry — as they did a decade earlier — that the expansion is running out of steam.

What is striking, considering these similarities, is how little effect the policy choices of Democratic and Republican administrations seem to have had on how both growth cycles unrolled.

Few economic forecasters expect the current growth cycle to have the length and vigor of the 1990s boom, which continued for 10 years from trough to peak. Yet fewer expected strong growth in the mid-1990s. In early 1996, forecasters polled by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia predicted that the economy would grow merely 1.8 percent that year. The economy ended up growing at twice that pace.

Average Americans were more pessimistic then than they are now. According to Gallup Poll's most recent snapshot of public opinion, last month 52 percent of Americans rated economic conditions as "excellent" or "good." In May 1996, only 30 percent did so.

"Consumers don't expect a slowing economy," said Richard Curtin, who heads the surveys of consumers at the University of Michigan. "According to consumers, we are going to improve."

Given the parallels, perhaps it is not surprising that the economy is providing the same sort of political ammunition as it did 10 years ago.

"Profits are up for our companies, but where are the wage increases?" Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, the New York Democrat who is running for president, asked during an online conversation with voters last month. "Where are the, you know, the benefits that should accrue to hard-working Americans?"

Wage increases have, indeed, been slow in coming. In December, 61 months after the economy started to grow, the wages of production and other non-management workers were barely 1.7 percent higher, after inflation, than when the economy hit bottom in November 2001. Most of those gains came in the last few months.

But many people have forgotten that, initially, the expansion of the 1990s was also dubbed a "jobless recovery," and then a "joyless" one, when employment started growing but real wages did not.

Advocates on each side insist that government policy was crucial to steering the economy. Gene Sperling, a former economic adviser to Bill Clinton, argued that his administration's efforts to cut the budget deficit were instrumental in bringing down interest rates and improving investors' confidence in the economy.

By contrast, Edward Lazear, President George W. Bush's chief economic adviser, argued that the tax cuts enacted by the administration in 2003 deserve some credit for the current expansion. "They had a fundamental impact on investment," Lazear said. "There was an abrupt turnaround at the point when those tax cuts were put into effect."

There are substantial differences, of course, in the nature of the two expansions. The early 1990s were characterized by a building bust; the current one has been supported by a housing bubble. The boom of the second half of the 1990s was underpinned by an Internet-driven investment bubble, but most technology stocks today are far below their earlier highs.

"In both situations we had overinvestment, now in housing, then in fiber optics," said Joseph Stiglitz, a professor of economics at Columbia University who was a chief economic adviser in the Clinton administration.

Bush and Clinton had very different economic priorities and will leave very different economic legacies. Clinton increased the top marginal tax rate to 39.6 percent from 31 percent and closed the budget deficit. Bush cut tax rates back to 35 percent, and the deficit reappeared. Corporate profits have swollen twice as fast, as a share of the economy, in the first five years of this expansion, under Bush, as in the like period of the previous one.

Still, policy has had less effect on the distribution of the rewards of growth than the stated goals of Democrats and Republicans would suggest. Indeed, the share of the economy devoted to workers' compensation shrunk as much in the first five years of the 1990s expansion, to 56.3 percent of gross domestic product from 57.7 percent, as in the most recent five years, when it fell from 58.1 percent to 56.6 percent.

No one knows how this expansion will end. In the 1990s, nearly all the gains for ordinary Americans occurred in the second half of the decade.

"If we conjecture another five years of the current expansion, I think it's going to be another surprise," said Gordon, the professor at Northwestern. "We had a good surprise in the '90s, but this time I think we're in for a series of bad surprises."

One ingredient that helped drive the 1990s expansion is missing today: the explosion of productivity growth that took off in the mid-1990s and lasted for more than a decade, when the investments that firms began to make in technology in the 1980s started to pay off.

"It's kind of hard to point to anything like that now," said Ken Matheny, senior economist at Macroeconomic Advisers. "It's difficult to say that we're about to have another productivity and investment boom as we saw in the late '90s."

Productivity grew by 3 percent in the last quarter of 2006. Still, for the full year, it grew only 2.1 percent for the year, which is the slowest since 1997.

Even as growth has remained on a remarkably similar path in both decades, administration critics say that Bush's policies have weakened the economy's longer-term prospects.

Stiglitz argued that Bush's tax cuts, aimed mostly at the wealthy, opened a big hole in the budget and provided little stimulus to the economy. This forced the Federal Reserve to push interest rates very low to keep the economy afloat, he said, creating a bubble in housing.

Under a more effective fiscal policy, Stiglitz said, "growth would be more broadly based and less of the economy would depend on real estate."

Sperling suggested that the mushrooming of the U.S. trade imbalance and the reappearance of large budget deficits have not caused more damage to the economy because money flooding into the United States from China and elsewhere has kept long-term interest rates low, underpinning investment and consumption. That support, he suggested, will eventually dry up.

"We are in a moment where excess savings are coming from India and China, so perhaps it is a moment in which fiscal irresponsibility won't have as negative short-term consequences," Sperling said. "But it has increased the risk factor in the economy. It is still poor long-term policy."

Meanwhile, the housing bubble has turned to bust, dragging residential investment down. Overall growth has been little affected so far, but many economists still expect household finances to weaken, cutting into consumer spending, the main bulwark of economic growth.

"Maybe we dodged a bullet, but you don't know," said Jeffrey Frankel, an economics professor at Harvard.