Friday, April 21, 2006

CIA Leaker Fired

This is welcome news. One of the miscreants responsible for disclosing classified information to the media has been cashiered. We hope she will also be prosecuted:

WASHINGTON - In a rare occurrence, the CIA fired an officer who acknowledged giving classified information to a reporter, NBC News learned Friday. The officer flunked a polygraph exam before being fired on Thursday and is now under investigation by the Justice Department, NBC has learned.

Intelligence sources tell NBC News the accused officer, Mary McCarthy, worked in the CIA's inspector general's office and had worked for the National Security Council under the Clinton and and George W. Bush administrations.

The leak pertained to stories on the CIA's rumored secret prisons in Eastern Europe, sources told NBC. The information was allegedly provided to Dana Priest of the Washington Post, who wrote about CIA prisons in November and was awarded a Pulitzer Prize on Monday for her reporting.

Sources said the CIA believes McCarthy had more than a dozen unauthorized contacts with Priest. Information about subjects other than the prisons may have been leaked as well.

Perhaps the example being made of Ms McCarthy will have a salutary effect throughout government and there will be a greater reticence among those who know and are sworn to protect our nation's secrets hereafter.

Gas Rant

I just filled up the car at the local gas station with 92 octane (middle grade) at a cost of $3.06 per gallon. Ouch! It looks like we are just about at post Katrina / Rita days except there isn't any hurricane. Or at least one we can blame on nature.

There is a silver lining in the rising price of gas though and there is benefit to be appreciated. SUVs that get 12 miles to the gallon will start to disappear from the roads. You know them, their the vehicles that blind you at night when they're behind you and their headlights are so high that they reflect in your rear-view mirror causing a nearly total inability to see where you are going.

When they're in front of you, you can't see anything beyond them so you have no idea what the rest of the traffic might be doing. In addition, statistics show that the other party of an accident involving an SUV is 5 times more likely to be killed.

To me, high gas prices are a God-send. I hope they go to $5 a gallon and with our present administration hard at work on their "energy policy", I suspect they will. Then the SUVs will become a thing of the past and as far as I'm concerned, good riddance.

Perhaps the legacy of the Bush administration will be that he single handedly enacted policy to rid the roads of these monster vehicles that consume twice the gas as the average vehicle does thus driving prices up for everybody although I find it odd that the biggest SUVs are eligible for tax credits. I haven't figured that out yet but I suspect it was simply one of those lobbying things that slipped through on the national defense budget legislation.

There's one other way we might be rid of the SUV. Ford Motor company lost 8% today on the stock market and GM is struggling to outdo them but only lost just under 4%. What amazes me is that in the world of stocks, in order for someone to sell their shares, someone has to buy them. What thinking person would spend money on either of these companies?

At any rate, both companies are going down the toilet and when they do, the SUVs as we know them will be flushed along with them. Driving will be a much safer and more enjoyable...for those that can afford the price of gasoline.


Yesterday gold plunged over $20 per ounce and silver followed with over a $2.00 loss.

I was almost in tears as a sat there looking at the real-time graphs that illustrated the greatest plunge in recent history in the metals...and I had no spare cash to take advantage of a buying opportunity that hasn't happened since the bull market in gold began five years ago. Ugh.

Of course, in less than twenty four hours the market recovered almost completely as to almost sneer at me for being caught off balance.

From Richard Russel tonight:

And gold, that unprincipled sneak -- it turned around and closed up 12.40 today -- and up another 3 in the after-market to 638.50 on the June futures. The previous high on the June futures was 636.00 recorded on April 19, so Monday it would not surprise me to see June gold at a new high! Silver did not do as well. But for those who were knocked out of the box in gold, sorry, it's never easy to trade the bull. All that's happened is that the gold bull has succeeded in shaking thousands of non-believers off his back. Amazing!

Experience is a great teacher although it's usually a very expensive one. I've learned my lesson well. There will be more corrections to come during this bull market in gold. In 1980-'81 there were corrections of $100 to $150 dollars that happened just as quickly as yesterday. I'm going to be ready for the next one.

Just in case...

there is anyone left who would believe that our government doesn't lie to us consider this article.

Let's take the official inflation rate, tracked using the consumer price index, or CPI. The idea behind the CPI is to have a fixed basket of goods and track how the prices of these things change from year to year. It only gained prominence after World War II, as a way to adjust autoworkers' labor contracts, a practice that soon spread.

Over time, its importance grew and more people looked to it as a gauge of general price inflation - and, hence, to get a feel for the health of the economy.

The thing is, the way the CPI is calculated changed dramatically over the years. Politicians have figured out that these statistics are useful in winning elections. Ergo, nearly every administration has altered the calculation. And always, the changes made the CPI lower. Every effort to change the CPI, by design, aims to make the economy look "better" than it looked before the changes.

The accumulation of these changes creates a huge difference over time. It's like making a series of small changes to a ship's course in the midst of a long voyage. Soon, you wind up way off course, miles and miles from where you think you are. The chart below on William's Web page shows the extent of the difference, which is just massive. The rate of inflation using only the pre-Clinton era CPI is closer to 7%!

The "Experimental C-CPI-U" is another innovation, introduced by the Bush administration to lower the CPI yet again, once again to paint a kinder portrait of the old hag known as the U.S. economy.

But it's about more than just making the economy look better. For example, since increases in Social Security payments link to the CPI, a lower CPI also saves the government money. According to Williams, if you used the CPI when Jimmy Carter was president, you'd get Social Security checks 70% higher than today's levels. Yes, 70% higher.

The government also duped all those people who thought it was such a great idea to buy TIPS (Treasury inflation-protected securities). Changes in the CPI determine the interest paid on these bonds. The higher the CPI, the more interest paid to bondholders. Some people loved the idea, figuring here was a bond that would keep pace with inflation. Given the government manipulates the CPI, you can be sure the interest rate paid will not keep pace with inflation - nor has it ever.

The manipulation of the CPI explains the great disconnect between what the man in the street feels when he pays his bills and what the confident, well-dressed Fed chiefs and politicians try to tell him. The cost of living is rising a lot more than they want you to believe. At a 7% annual rate of inflation, the cost of living would double in about 10 years. Looked at differently, the purchasing power of your dollar will fall in half.


What about unemployment? The government, since the time of the Kennedy administration, has been changing the definition of "unemployed." Again, many small changes over time lead to dramatic end results. According to Williams, if you back out the changes, you get an unemployment number closer to 12%!

Let's look at the federal deficit - basically, the amount of money the government is losing every year. The official deficit for 2005 was $319 billion. However, this excludes unfunded Social Security and Medicare obligations. Throw them into the mix and calculate the deficit the way a business does in its financial statements - and you get an annual deficit around $3.5 trillion.

That's more than 10 times the so-called "official" deficit. By Williams' calculations, you could raise the tax rate to 100% - dump everyone's salaries into the U.S. Treasury - and still have a deficit.

Years of such deficits have created a mountain of obligations for the U.S. government. As Williams says, "The fiscal 2005 statement shows that total federal obligations at the end of September were $51 trillion; over four times the level of GDP." These debts are unsustainable. The bills must go unpaid. If the U.S. government were a private corporation, its bankruptcy would be beyond dispute.

There are only two ways to protect yourself from this kind of abuse. Buy gold and ride the storm or buy gold and leave the country.

So What's Your Point?

Farmers in Mexico have staged a nude protest. It's hard to tell exactly what they're trying to demonstrate by posturing sans clothing except maybe that whatever their grievances might be, they're not starving.

Fighting For the First Amendment

Consider the tale of Ruth Malhotra in the LA Times:

Ruth Malhotra went to court last month for the right to be intolerant. Malhotra says her Christian faith compels her to speak out against homosexuality. But the Georgia Institute of Technology, where she's a senior, bans speech that puts down others because of their sexual orientation.

Malhotra sees that as an unacceptable infringement on her right to religious expression. So she's demanding that Georgia Tech revoke its tolerance policy. With her lawsuit, the 22-year-old student joins a growing campaign to force public schools, state colleges and private workplaces to eliminate policies protecting gays and lesbians from harassment. The religious right aims to overturn a broad range of common tolerance programs: diversity training that promotes acceptance of gays and lesbians, speech codes that ban harsh words against homosexuality, anti-discrimination policies that require college clubs to open their membership to all.

The legal argument is straightforward: Policies intended to protect gays and lesbians from discrimination end up discriminating against conservative Christians. Evangelicals have been suspended for wearing anti-gay T-shirts to high school, fired for denouncing Gay Pride Month at work, reprimanded for refusing to attend diversity training. When they protest tolerance codes, they're labeled intolerant.

A recent survey by the Anti-Defamation League found that 64% of American adults - including 80% of evangelical Christians - agreed with the statement "Religion is under attack in this country."

"The message is, you're free to worship as you like, but don't you dare talk about it outside the four walls of your church," said Stephen Crampton, chief counsel for the American Family Assn. Center for Law and Policy, which represents Christians who feel harassed.

Others fear the banner of religious liberty could be used to justify all manner of harassment. "What if a person felt their religious view was that African Americans shouldn't mingle with Caucasians, or that women shouldn't work?" asked Jon Davidson, legal director of the gay rights group Lambda Legal.

Christian activist Gregory S. Baylor responds to such criticism angrily. He says he supports policies that protect people from discrimination based on race and gender. But he draws a distinction that infuriates gay rights activists when he argues that sexual orientation is different - a lifestyle choice, not an inborn trait.

By equating homosexuality with race, Baylor said, tolerance policies put conservative evangelicals in the same category as racists. He predicts the government will one day revoke the tax-exempt status of churches that preach homosexuality is sinful or that refuse to hire gays and lesbians. "Think how marginalized racists are," said Baylor, who directs the Christian Legal Society's Center for Law and Religious Freedom. "If we don't address this now, it will only get worse."

Christians are fighting back in a case involving Every Nation Campus Ministries at California State University. Student members of the ministry on the Long Beach and San Diego campuses say their mission is to model a virtuous lifestyle for their peers. They will not accept as members gays, lesbians or anyone who considers homosexuality "a natural part of God's created order."

Legal analysts agree that the ministry, as a private organization, has every right to exclude gays; the Supreme Court affirmed that principle in a case involving the Boy Scouts in 2000. At issue is whether the university must grant official recognition to a student group that discriminates.

The students say denying them recognition - and its attendant benefits, such as funding - violates their free-speech rights and discriminates against their conservative theology. Christian groups at public colleges in other states have sued using similar arguments. Several of those lawsuits were settled out of court, with the groups prevailing.

In the public schools, an Ohio middle school student last year won the right to wear a T-shirt that proclaimed: "Homosexuality is a sin! Islam is a lie! Abortion is murder!" But a teen-ager in Kentucky lost in federal court when he tried to exempt himself from a school program on gay tolerance on the grounds that it violated his religious beliefs.

Malhotra said she had been reprimanded by college deans several times in the last few years for expressing conservative religious and political views. When she protested a campus production of "The Vagina Monologues" with a display condemning feminism, the administration asked her to paint over part of it.

She caused another stir with a letter to the gay activists who organized an event known as Coming Out Week in the fall of 2004. Malhotra sent the letter on behalf of the Georgia Tech College Republicans, which she chairs; she said several members of the executive board helped write it.

The letter referred to the campus gay rights group Pride Alliance as a "sex club ... that can't even manage to be tasteful." It went on to say that it was "ludicrous" for Georgia Tech to help fund the Pride Alliance. The letter berated students who come out publicly as gay, saying they subject others on campus to "a constant barrage of homosexuality."

"If gays want to be tolerated, they should knock off the political propaganda," the letter said.

The student activist who received the letter, Felix Hu, described it as "rude, unfair, presumptuous" - and disturbing enough that Pride Alliance forwarded it to a college administrator. Soon after, Malhotra said, she was called in to a dean's office. Students can be expelled for intolerant speech, but she said she was only reprimanded.

Still, she said, the incident has left her afraid to speak freely. She's even reluctant to aggressively advertise the campus lectures she arranges on living by the Bible. "Whenever I've spoken out against a certain lifestyle, the first thing I'm told is 'You're being intolerant, you're being negative, you're creating a hostile campus environment,' " Malhotra said.

A Georgia Tech spokeswoman would not comment on the lawsuit or on Malhotra's disciplinary record, but she said the university encouraged students to debate freely, "as long as they're not promoting violence or harassing anyone."

Tolerance of the choices of others is an absolute which must not ever be violated, unless of course, the choices others make involve adhering to traditional moral opinions about homosexuality based upon the 2000 year tradition of the Christian Church. Then tolerance and diversity go out the window and the solitary voices which dare to defy campus orthodoxy must be silenced.

Anyone can say anything on campus, no matter how hateful, about George Bush. Anyone can promote plays like the Vagina Monologues which discusses approvingly the seduction of a minor girl by an older lesbian. Anyone on campus can cheer the murders of Israeli children by Palestinian suicide bombers. But let a young woman stand up and say that homosexuality is wrong and immoral and the wheels of university justice are set in motion to grind her down. Some opinions simply can not be permitted a hearing lest they offend someone.

We have a suggestion for Ms. Malhotra. Next time she plans to voice her thoughts on homosexuality she should don a hijab and pretend to be a Muslim. The university administration will let her say whatever she wants.


According to this article, oil futures hit $75 per barrel today. This is based on futures which are a time-dated contract that two parties enter into that requires the buyer to take delivery (although often settled in cash) of the underlying commodity and the seller is required to provide the underlying commodity at some future date. Futures contracts often tend to be "derivatives" of the underlying commodity as the buyers don't actually want to possess the commodity rather they're betting on what it will be worth at some time in the future.

If the price of oil at the time the contract expires is lower than $75, the people who purchased the contract lose money because they have to pay $75 for a barrel of oil that costs less than that at that point in time. On the other hand, if people are buying futures contracts for oil at $75 a barrel today, they must believe it will be much, much higher by the time the contract expires.

Here's the take-home message...first, note that the futures contract reference in the article is short-dated which means the expiration of the contract is May. Secondly, the people that participate in the futures market mostly do it for a living and they tend to know what they're doing. This inclines me to believe that in another month or two oil is going to be very expensive.

The Worst President Ever?!

Historian Sean Wilentz grinds his anti-Bush axe at Rolling Stone in an article which concludes that George W. Bush may be the very worst president we've ever had. Far be it from us to dispute the learned judgment of a Princeton historian, but might professor Wilentz be substituting ideological prejudice for objective judgment? In case the reader is inclined to wince at such presumption, this seems also to be the opinion of others who know far more history than do we.

At any rate, the things for which Wilentz indicts Bush seem either trivial or patently false, and he inexplicably ignores those things upon which history is most likely to judge his success. For example, he's prepared to consign Bush to the dustbin of history for the NSA spying business, for lying about WMD in Iraq, and for the Valerie Plame affair, but these are tempests in teapots for which Bush has been, or will very likely be, exonerated. He criticizes Bush for being divisive, but the Democrats, in a snit over the 2000 election, have made division their sole domestic policy over the past five years. Mohatma Ghandi could not have wooed the petulant Democrats after that disappointment. Wilentz points to Bush's low approval ratings as proof that he's doing a terrible job, but these are in fact a consequence primarily of two things -- a relentless and tendentious media campaign to destroy his presidency by accusing him of, and blaming him for, anything they can, and rising gasoline prices.

Wilentz ignores completely what his colleagues in the future likely will not: Bush has liberated 50 million people from almost unimaginable oppression, more than any single president in history - indeed, more than any other man in history. He has successfully presided over an economy that was in recession when he took office, was further rocked by 9/11, Katrina, and Rita, and which today is bounding along as the envy of the rest of the world. Furthermore, the war on terror has been a success. Most of al-Qaeda's top leadership has been killed or captured, and they're on the run everywhere in the world. We do not have bin Laden, to be sure, but he's afraid to show his face for fear that there's a predator drone flying figure eights overhead ready to launch a hellfire missile with his name on it. It's worth noting, too, that there has not been a single terrorist attack on our soil since 9/11. He has also implemented a medicare plan that looked at first like a disaster, but which some analysts are beginning to think may be better than they first thought.

Compared to these achievements the faults of which Wilentz accuses him would be piddling were they fair or accurate, but for the most part they are neither.

Bush has had failures, but they're not what Wilentz condemns him for. He has failed to curtail spending, to secure our borders, or to fix social security. These are not all his fault, but he must take some of the blame for them. Even so, he has three years left. If he can get just one out of these three, if medicare doesn't bankrupt us, and Iraq and Afghanistan remain stable, he'll be considered by historians as one of the better presidents ever to sit in the White House. If he gets two out of three, solves either the Iranian or the North Korean nuclear problem, keeps the Afghans and Iraqis pacified, if our economy continues its healthy trend, and there are no further attacks on our soil, he will be regarded by historians, even at Princeton, as perhaps the greatest president in our history.

These are admittedly big "ifs," but the point is that it's awfully premature to be proclaiming him a total failure. Such a judgment cannot be a purely scholarly conclusion, but must rather be an attempt to promote an ideological agenda which involves destroying George W. Bush.

Bush's enemies are consumed with a passionate hatred for him that is astonishing to behold, and his successes simply stoke that hatred to ever higher levels of intensity. If things do turn out for this country as we hope they will, the haters will be driven completely to the brink of madness. That Bush should achieve a place in the upper tier of presidents will push them to the breaking point. Yet is that not what every sane person should be hoping and praying for? Should we not be praying for success in the Middle East, security at home, a disarmed Iran and North Korea, and a healthy economy? It's tragic that so many would rather see these things not come to pass than to see Bush get credit for them. I think Sean Wilentz might come close to being one of those who just doesn't want to give the president any credit and he's willing to jeopardize his professional reputation and credibility in order to avoid doing it.