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Editorial correspondence | Back to Politics | Back to the world news

Get rid of planes
When will the US economy recover
Homicides increase nation-wide
The Bush's administration helps criminals arm themselves
The US dependence on oil is increasing. Bush's first-year accomplishments are staggering
What did the United States achieved by executing Timothy McVeigh?
How Bush started the longest world-wide economic crisis of modern times
Fox News and the search for Chandra
Get over it: the election is over... or not?
Why did Mr Bush bomb Iraq
How unusual: an American kid shoots classmates
The truth about California: a third-world state with a third-world governor
Did the US Air Force down TWA 800, Swissair 111 and Egyptair 990?
What will Bill Clinton be remembered for?
Mr Bush's mafia-style charity for wealthy people
Older articles

    Click here for 2002 articles

  • (December 2001) Homicides increased nation-wide for the first time in many years. Throughout the Clinton presidency, homicides steadily decreased from their heights of the 1980s. The increase began in 2001 and peaked around the September 11 attack.
  • Statistics consistently show that drugs and gangs have nothing to do with it: both gang-related and drug-related homicides are stable.
  • What has increased dramatically is family killings and "accidental" killings. This is rapidly becoming the number one problem in many communities. You are much more likely to be killed by a member of your family, a friend or a neighbor than by a burglar or a gangster. The simplest explanation, as usual, is guns. The number of guns has increased dramatically during the 1990s. Arguments that, in other country, end with a fist fight in America end with a bloodshed.
  • Ordinary crime has also increased significantly in the first six months of the year, and this can be attributed to the prison population. For decades America has been locking more and more people in prisons. Prisons are basically schools to learn crime. You go in for stealing an apple and you come out a graduate in bank robbery. As the inmnate population swelled to the current two million people, the number of prisoners released from jail also increased to record numebrs. This year a record number of 635,000 inmates will be released from prisons and will return to their communities. Enjoy the consequences of being "tough on crime".
  • Worsening economic conditions for the poor (that are not helped at all by Bush's tax cuts and stimulus packages) are likely to cause more crime, as people lose their jobs and lose their health insurance. (It is even hard to call them "criminals": there is not much else you can do if your child gets sick and you don't have money and don't have health insurance).
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  • (December 2001) When will the US economy recover. The only politician who made a prediction that came true about the US economy is George W Bush: when he was running for president, he correctly predicted that the US economy was headed for a recession. Nobody else predicted it. The recession did come (it started in June, way before the September 11 terrorist attacks) and it is still here six months later. Month after month we have heard economists deny that there was a recession and then predict a rapid turnaround. First the recovery was scheduled by the second half of 2001, then for the first half of 2002 and now for the end of 2002. Economists have consistently been wrong in their predictions. There is no reason to believe them now: there will be no (significant) recovery in 2002. In fact, the fundamentals are getting much worse.
    When Bush took office, the US coffers were full of money: Bush inherited from Clinton the largest budget surplus in memory. Now the Bush administration is beginning to admit that we are returning to the good old days of budget deficits, then the government has to borrow in order to pay the salaries of its employees. When Bush gave wealthy Americans a trillion dollars of tax cuts, he swore that there was plenty of money left. It turns out, there is none left.
    Alan Greenspan cuts interest rates for the 11th time in december 2001 to bolster a sagging economy. So far it has not helped. In fact, the economy has been sinking deeper and deeper. This is eerily reminiscent of what happened in Japan ten years ago: it started with a gentle slide and then it kept sliding, year after year, no matter how low interest rates went (now they are close to zero in Japan and they are less than 2% in the US... getting there).
    The Japanese stock market has lost most of its value in ten years. Japanese citizens have not been much affected because few of them invest their pension money in stocks, but in the US the same phenomenon would have devastating effects, wiping out the savings of millions of Americans, particularly the elderly. Is this likely to happen? Yes, there are all signs that the US stock market is ready for a major collapse, because its value still reflects the belief that a recovery is around the corner: if the expected recovery does not materialize soon, stocks will crash.
    What could save the US economy is a stimulus package. Unfortunately, so far the Bush administration has been arguing in favor of a stimulus package that is mainly a series of additional tax cuts for the wealthy. It is unlikely to have any effect on the economy.
    Statistic after statistic shows that Americans are more indebted than ever. They have been spending and are still spending under the belief that the recession will be short and their jobs are relatively safe. Their credit cards have a huge balance that would become a killer should they lose their job. Most Americans do not own their home: they have mortgage to pay every month. The liabilities go on and on. In a prolonged recession, the American consumer would be extremely vulnerable and this could cause an avalanche effect, killing any prospect of recovery for many years.
    All of this comes when oil prices are at their lowerst. One wonders what would happen if oil prices started climbing again. An Arab state that managed to cause a dramatic increase in oil prices would cause much bigger damage to America than Osama Bin Laden's terrorism.
    The international situation is not going to help the economy. Bush has just decided to cancel the ABM treaty with Russian (God only knows why Bush had to do this right now that the USA has already so much trouble at hand). This could trigger an arms race, as China decides to invest more in nuclear weapons (China as only 20, and it takes 100 to feel effective against the "shield" that Bush wants to build), as India may follow suit to protect itself against China, as Pakistan follows suit to protect itself against India. In the meantime, Bush has given carte blanche to Israel against the Palestinians. This may result in the destruction of the peace process and all-out hostility between the Arab world and the West. In the meantime, India is wondering why the USA can bomb Afghanistan and they cannot bomb the sources of their own terrorism: Pakistan (which makes no mystery of supporting the groups that have been attacking India for decades). In the meantime, there are several countries, that the USA has decided not to help, whose economies are on the brink of collapse (Argentina, Brazil, Turkey etc). Any of theses collapses would send shock waves around the world. Finally, there is uncertainty as to what Bush wants to bomb next: if he truly starts bombing other countries (Iraq, Somalia), this will certainly depress the world markets. Most likely many of these crises will be defused before they explode, but it would take a huge amount of luck for the world to avoid all of them.
    So far one can safely say that Bush has started the world-wide economic crisis that he had promised.
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  • (November 2001) Get rid of planes. How many more people have to die before we get rid of airplanes? The US economy relies on airplanes more than any other country in the world. The result? One terrorist attack and the entire country cannot travel anymore, because there is basically no alternative to airplanes. In Europe or Japan, or in any developing country, people would simply switch to trains and buses. But in the US the railway network is so pathetically obsolete that, in practice, it cannot be used. A four-hour train trip from Frankfurt to Hamburg is a dream in California, where the train takes 12 hours from San Francisco to Los Angeles (same distance). Of course, Californians fly.
    One wonders what is the advantage of flying over taking the train. The train affords more space to passengers and a much more comfortable seat. The luggage stays with you, no need to "check in". On a train you can move around and stretch out. On a train you can use cellular phones and all electronics at all time. Modern trains actually offer power outlets to recharge your electronics (since trains are propelled by electricity, this is trivial). It is easy to both board and disembark from trains. You can board a train up to one second before departure time. Trains have a restaurant car and sleep cars. Last but not least, train stations are located downtown, unlike airports which are located very far from the city: you don't have to wake up at 5am to catch the 8am flight. When you arrive, you don't need to rent a car in order to get downtown: you arrive downtown.
    That leaves speed. But are planes really faster than bullet trains? A flight between San Francisco and Los Angeles takes only one hour but it involves getting to/from the airports, checking in at least one hour before departure time, parking and renting cars, picking up luggage: easily an extra three/four hours. A bullet train between the same cities would take the same time. The longer the distance the faster is flying over taking the train, but, again, if you count all the time one wastes because of airport security, check-in, car rental, etc the advantage is not so clear: a bullet train would cover the distance between San Francisco and New York in about 12 hours, a plane takes six hours but you have to be at the airport one hour before departure and you arrive in JFK not in Manhattan...
    Trains also offer valuable strategic advantages. First of all, they are not affected by the weather. A storm, even a strong one, has no effect on the railway tracks. Secondly, they are modular: one can add or remove a car from a train depending on how many passengers are expected (whereas you can't shorten or enlarge a plane on the fly). Thirdly, airplanes use gasoline, lots of it, while trains use electricity. Last but not least, trains cannot used as bombs against skyscrapers...
    So why America has not invested in an adequate railway network the way Europe and Japan did? Unfortunately, there is no "railway lobby" like there is an airlines lobby. Politicians have no motivation to sponsor railways the way they help airlines.
    The people who are killing you on planes are not only the terrorists: they are also the Washington politicians with ties to the oil and airline industry, starting with the president. They are keeping alive a system that is vulnerable to all sorts of attacks, a system that is basically a liability for America. It is not safe to fly, and it will never be. The thousands of people who are killed by terrorists and by air crashes are a price that these politicians are willing to pay in order to get their campaign funding (if not their bribe money).
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  • (August 2001) The US dependence on oil is increasing. This is certainly not good news for future American generations: America's survival depends on the availability of something (oil) that does not grow on American soil. It does not take a genius in politics/history/economy to realize that America should rapidly and dramatically change course. It is suicidal to build a society and an economy on a foundation that is owned by foreigners (and, more often than not, by foreigners who would welcome the destruction of America). The largest oil reserves are in Iraq (a US enemy), Iran (a US enemy) and Saudi Arabia (currently a US friend, but one of the worst dictatorships in the world, no reason to feel proud that they are our friends). Ten years ago America was importing 47% of its oil. Today, America is importing about 60%. Arab countries account for about 2.5 million barrels a day of oil used by Americans. This number has been going up every single decade since oil was discovered in Arab countries.
    It would make sense that the US had the opposite trend: import less and less oil, and certainly less and less from countries in dangerous areas of the world.
    The Bush administration has simply asked to drill in Alaska, promising that would provide 1.5 million barrels a day. That number looks very attractive (and, no doubt, some drilling should be done, environment or not). But that number assumes that everything goes well. Bush promised that budget surpluses would continue forever, and now we know that he is going to run a deficit soon: that promise, too, was based on the assumption that everything went well. In reality, it rarely happens that everything goes well. Realistically, drilling in Alaska would yield either one million barrels for only a few months (hardly a long-term solution) or a trickly of oil for a long time. A responsible government will take the second option. That will not solve the problem of depending too much from Arab oil.
    The other solution, that the Bush administration does not want to adopt because the Bush administration is sponsored by the oil industry, is that we consume less oil. The mathematics is really very simply: if American cars consumed the average of a small European car (about 20 liters per km), America would save 2.5 million barrels a day, much more than America can expect from Alaska. Is it truly so terrible to have cars that consume less gasoline? Does the average American driver shiver at the notion of spending less on gasoline? No, the only Americans who are scared of this prospect are the Americans who run the oil and gasoline industry: they would lose trillions of dollars. American consumers would save trillions of dollars. America as a country would be safer.
    Unfortunately the oil industry is very rich and very powerful. It even got elected a president whom nobody really wanted. The oil industry controls so many lobbies in Washington that few politicians dare attack it.
    It would be very simply to force the automobile industry to sell cars that, on average, consume only 20 liters of gasoline per km. Those cars already exists and are ubiquitous in other countries. It is just a matter of forcing Detroit to do the same.
    Last but not least, states should do more to motivate consumers to buy hybrid electric cars. Why not make it a tax-deductible item? Because the oil industry does not make money out of a hybrid car.
    Let the oil industry go bankrupt, but let us protect American citizens and future generations.
  • (August 2001) The Bush's administration helps criminals arm themselves. The Bush administration has quietly changed the laws on guns to make it very easy for criminals to arm themselves and very difficult for police to catch them.
    • The FBI has been ordered by the Attorney General to erase records of gun purchases within 24 hours (of course, too short a time to find out anything about the buyer).
    • The State Department has opposed an international treaty to detect sales of guns to organized crime.
    • The Department of Housing canceled the program to reduce the number of arms by buying them off the street.
    • The administration has scratched the deal that forced gun manufacturer Smith & Wesson to install safety devices on guns.
    Gun dealers can go back to safely selling arms by the millions to criminals all over America.
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  • (July 2001) Get over it: the election is over... or not? The US election was decided when the Supreme Court halted the recount of the Florida votes and de-facto handed the presidency to George W Bush, who was trailing Al Gore by 100,000 votes nationwide, but losing Florida by a thousand votes. The winner is decided by "electoral" votes, and not by the actual votes, and Florida's electoral votes were enough to push Bush beyond 50% of the electoral votes, even if he had less than 48% of the actual votes. Of course, the judges of the Supreme Court knew this very well, and they were aware that by stopping the recount in Florida they were, de facto, handling the presidency to Bush.
    The Miami Herald counted the votes that the Supreme Court did not want to see counted. The New York Times counted too and showed that most absentee ballots were invalid. In his book "Supreme Injustice", Alan Dershowitz (Harvard professor of law) describes how Katherine Harris and others "ethnically cleansed" the voting population to favor Bush. What do all these counts prove?
    They do not change the basic facts: 1. Gore won more votes than Bush nationwide 2. the rules allow for the loser to win, 3. the way votes are counted around the country is obsolete and unfair, and 4. the Supreme Court has the power to decide who the next president is going to be. These are different problems.
    1. Gore was the moral winner of the elections, since he got more votes than anyone else (about 100,000 more votes). Millions of Americans feel that the election was stolen and that this is not a democracy. This is a serious problem that may impact all future elections for many generations to come.
    2. This can happen again. The left and the right in America have never been so balanced. Candidates have learned that winning states is more important than winning votes. If the entire state of California had voted for Gore, Bush would have still won the presidency, because 100% of California counts as much as 51% of California in terms of electoral votes, so an extra million votes for Gore does not make any difference. Bottom line: Bush has no motivation to care for the states in which he lost. As long as he pleases the minority that voted for him, he will get re-elected.
    3. Election officials can determine the outcome of an election. This happened before when Kennedy won over Nixon. Since election officials belong to the parties who win the elections, this self-sustaining loop resembles the way elections are organized (and won) in communist countries.
    4. Nobody will trust the Supreme Court anymore on any important issue. We don't know who would have won a fair election, but we know what the Supreme Court thought: five judges of the Supreme Court thought that Gore was going to win and decided to intervene. By all legal standards and their own precedents, they had no reason to intervene. They did because they thought Gore would win. In the future, we will not trust any decision by the Supreme Court. (Nobody doubts that, had this been Gore vs Bush instead of Bush vs Gore, i.e. had Gore questioned a hand recount while he was ahead, the Supreme Court would have refused to intervene and let the recount continue).
    The fourth point is the stickiest one because it is, de facto, a blow to democracy. What this Supreme Court tried to establish was not the truth but simply its own power. This Supreme Court is simply trying to assert itself as the real power in the country. Yes, there is a congress, and yes, there is a president, but ultimately we the Supreme Court will stop anything that we don't approve of. The Bush vs Gore decision is only the most famous of a series that displayed sheer arrogance and abuse of power on the Supreme Court's side. This Court (that is not elected by the people) has often expressed disdain and ridiculed other branches of power, and, in particular, for all sorts of officials elected (repeat: elected) by the people, ranging from state judges to politicians; i.e., it has expressed disdain for the democratic process itself. This Court makes literally fun of complex democratic processes that lead to a certain outcome by wiping it out in a matter of seconds: the constitution grants the Supreme Court such a privilege.
    There are plenty of disturbing sentences in the opinion of the Supreme Court about the Florida recount. First of all, that opinion is concerned with "irreparable harm" but it doesn't state which harm it is talking about. A recount would obviously not be a "harm" to Gore and the majority of Americans who voted for him. The "harm" that the Supreme Court is interested in (the only harm it is interested in) is the harm to Bush's chances of winning (Scalia's words: "irreparable harm to the petitioner", which is Bush, and not a word about the harm inflicted to Gore by halting the recount). Second, the Supreme Court found a problem with the non-uniform recounting in Florida, but not with the wildly non-uniform counts that were going on all over America (there aren't two states that count the same way and in every state each county basically has its own standards): the Supreme Court found a problem only in Florida, only while Bush was winning and Gore about to pass him. Best of all, the Supreme Court's argument ends with a specific warning that this decision (this crucial, historical, monumental decision) should not be used as a precedent in any future election: in other words, if next time it is Gore who wants to stop a recount, this very decision will not apply. It is not a general decision about elections, but just a fix to the 2000 elections.
    One could fatalistically conclude that this Supreme Court is just a bunch of senile fools. The problem is that these Justices serve for life. They are not elected by the people and they serve for life. If they modify the intended purpose of the Supreme Court and turn it into an institution that decides elections and laws, the Supreme Court will create, de facto, a dictatorship similar to the Supreme Soviet in the Soviet Union: sure, the Soviet parliament could discuss any law and appoint any candidate, but the Supreme Soviet had the final word on each and every decision.
    The election is far from over. The damage done will last for a generation if not longer.
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  • (July 2001) Fox News and the search for Chandra. Most of the world does not know who Chandra Levy is, but Fox News (mainly Fox News) has made her a celebrity in the US. Fox is one of the four largest television networks in America. They have a number of talk shows (Paula Zahn, Bill O'Reilly, John Gibson, Shepard Smith, etc) with tabloid-style reporting that are absolutely obsessed with this story and, every single day, they focus on all its aspects. The center of attention is actually not the girl but her lover, a politician named Gary Condit. She was working for him as an intern and they were having an affair. Condit is married and tried to hide the relationship. Apparently, Chandra was more open about trying to steal Condit from his wife.
    One day Chandra disappeared. The media, led by Fox News' many commentators (and to a lesser extent, CNN's Larry King and MSNBC's Chris Matthews, and with the only notable exception of CBS), focused on Condit's behavior: first he denied the relationship, then he refused to take a polygraph test, then he did take a test but on his own terms, and, worst of all for a news organization that survives on press conferences, he stubbornly refuses to hold a press conference and answer reporters.
    The result is a media frenzy in which Condit gets accused of everything from betraying his electors to obstructing justice to murdering Chandra. Hardly anybody cares for finding Chandra: most of Chandra's neighbors have not even been interrogated by the police, and certainly not the focus of attention on Fox and CNN since they refuse to be interviewed (Chandra disappeared without taking anything with herself and presumably in the middle of the day, and one would imagine, if anybody saw what happened to her, it must be her neighbors).
    Of course, thousands of boys and girls are missing and nobody is spending one second on them on national tv and the police does not organize the same kind of large-scale operation for them (Chandra, incidentally, isn't really just a "girl", she's a 24-year old woman and not exactly that innocent). It is unique to the modern television era how one or two tv channels can focus so much of a nation's attention on such a minor episode (with all due respect to Chandra's parents, there are thousands of such cases, and, again, in many cases the victim is a child).
    The commentators at Fox News would reply that the scandal is the politician, this evil Gary Condit who seduced the poor girl and then refused to cooperate with the police. First of all, the police have always said that he did cooperate. Second, I wonder how many senators and congressman are having affairs of one sort or another. And, while cleaning up politics is certainly a good idea, it may make sense to start with the top (George W Bush did drugs and alcohol, something for which people are routinely incarcerated for years, not elected president) rather than with a small-time politician from Modesto. Fox News has asked for Condit to resign. That would be the appropriate move in an ideal world, but we live in a world in which George W Bush lost the national elections by 100,000 votes to Al Gore and clung to a technicality to get the presidency, and never even though of behaving like a gentleman and handing over the presidency to the man who won the most votes nationwide (instead, he hired an army of attorney to uphold the technicality). If the moral standards are so low, it is not because of a Condit in Modesto, but because of all the Bushes in Washington who do just about anything to grab more power.
    In blowing coverage out of proportion, the media (some media) are basically legitimizing other kinds of unethical behavior (think of all the Washington lobbies that use money to get laws passed regardless of their merits) that do not receive the same amount of coverage, actually are completely neglected in order to cover Chandra's story.
    Cleaning up politics does not start with a sex scandal, it starts with a corrupt political system that Fox News and others are condoning (possibly because they themselves benefit from that system).
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  • (July 2001) Cyber-dictators. The world-wide web is becoming the essential tool for researchers, consumers, analysts, and millions of plain individuals looking for an answer to a question or for a service or for a product. Aware of the power that the web represents, strategically-located companies are beginning to flex their muscles and dream of a future when they control who sees what.
    Example: Microsoft has been granted by George W Bush's administration the right to become a monopoly in web browsers. A browser is the tool that we all use to browse the web. Microsoft has plans to add features that will automatically redirect your browser to pages of its preference (presumably, pages who author has paid a fee to Microsoft). This project has caused an outrage and has been shelved, but none of Microsoft's ideas have died away: it will come back, and it may come back in an even stronger format. Microsoft can control what you see because you are using their "glasses" to see, and they can paint whatever they like on your glasses, and that will be the only thing that you will see.
    Another, less publicized example comes from search engines. People often underestimate the power of search engines. You wouldn't know that I exist if it weren't for a search engine. Search engines are the most used tool on the web: they help you find the pages you need. Most search engine companies now charge a fee to people who want to be "found" by their search engines: you have to pay a fee for them to admit that you exist. Otherwise they will never show your webpage (no matter how good it is and how well it matches the user's needs). Already, (one of the oldest search engines) guarantees your listing only if you pay. In the old days, search engines were competing to list as many pages as they could. Just compare (that still runs the old-fashioned way) and whatever you are looking for, will find hundreds of very relevant pages that excite does not find. Now use and you will find only a few, and totally irrelevant. The difference? searches every page on the web; searches mainly the pages that have paid a fee; searches only the pages that have paid a fee.
    If this business model wins, search engines will find only what they want to find, not everything that exists. It's like a librarian asking writers to pay a fee if they want anybody to find their books in the library. If you don't pay, your book will never be seen by anybody. Period.
    Potentially, search engine can control "what" web billions of people will see.
    Governments have not realized the power that browser manufacturers (soon to be only Microsoft) and search engines hold. It is a power that can devastate modern civilization.
    Governments should provide a default and free browser and a default and free search engine that everybody can use to see the "entire" world-wide web. Governments should invest in a world-wide directory of webpages, listed not based on how much they are willing to pay but on how relevant they are to such and such a topic.
    The Internet can be our best friend or our worst enemy.
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  • (June 2001) How Bush started the longest world-wide economic crisis of modern times Bush got his tax cut and, surprise, it didn't make any difference to the economy. A few very rich people will buy a very big villa on the French Riviera. Not much else will change. Bush's advisers were probably counting on this economic slowdown to fix itself, sooner or later. The problem is that, when Bush talked the economy down in 2000, he started a downward spiral that doesn't seem to stop. Assuming that the economy further deteriorates in the next few quarters, Bush will be pressed to act. The problem this time will be that America can't expect help from anybody: Japan is in a recession (and its new prime ministers just vowed to tighten government spending), Europe is following America step by step into one, the rest of the world depends on America's imports and therefore will crash with Wall Street. In other words, America can't count on foreign countries to import American goods, because foreign countries count on America to import their goods.
    Alan Greenspan will keep cutting interest rates, but so far all of his cuts have not produced a turnaround, and there is little evidence that further cuts will produce one. So far they only ignited inflation, which is the highest in ten years or so. Europe's inflation is also way high (almost 4%). Neither Greenspan nor his pathetic European counterpart can lower interest rates too much without starting an inflationary loop that would cause even greater devastation. So Greenspan can't probably pull this one by himself.
    Eventually, Bush will have to find a solution. (Needless to say, it is not good news that the most incompetent of world leaders has to find a solution to save the world). The solution is simple, but, alas, goes contrary to everything Bush stands for, so he drag his feet: government spending. The only way to lift the American economy from this stagnation is to spend a few trillion dollars in public works. This will create jobs and keep thousands of companies solvent. Alas, Bush's ideology is to cut government spending. Alas, Bush just spent every penny the government had for his tax cut for the riches. The government does not have any money left and Bush does not want to spend anyway. Bush's delay in spending may cause further damage to the economy. In fact, Bush's may need to cut spending in order to pay for his tax cut: the government "would" have had the money for that tax cut if the economy was still doing well. Now the government may already be short of dollars to pay for the tax cut, and therefore Bush may have to fire mailmen and police officers. (Remember Clinton? He raised taxes and with the money he hired 100,000 police officers: that's 100,000 additional consumers to fuel the economy. Bush cut taxes and now will have to fire people: that's fewer consumers for an already ailing economy).
    Eventually, as the 2004 elections approach, Bush will be forced to act and spend. He will finally spend his way out of the recession he has created. This will cost a few trillion dollars and will plunge America into budget deficits again. It will cost American taxpayers a lot more than they got back thanks to the 2001 tax cuts (ordinary, non-rich, Americans only got $300...)
    Wanna bet?
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  • (June 2001) What did the United States achieved by executing Timothy McVeigh? Americans love to have a good reason to kill someone, but here is what the execution of Timothy McVeigh achieved:
    1. It turned McVeigh into a martyr. I wonder how many people, following this man's ordeal, ended up sympatizing with him. Let's face it: he was a man of principles. He confessed. He said he believed in what he did. He was sorry for people's sorrow, but thought of serving a higher goal. He mentioned that America has killed millions of innocents in just wars: collateral casualties, as the Pentagon calls them. The more we heard of him, the less crazy he sounded. The more we heard his accusers, the more insignificant they sounded. How many younger viewers have concluded that McVeigh is a martyr?
    2. It publicized the Oklahoma bombing so much that, in a country that boasts so many psychos, it is likely someone is now craving to plot a similar terrorist act. The more the media covered the event, the more powerful the message for any psycho who is desperate for publicity.
    3. It made sure that we will never know the truth. There was another man, and maybe he was the mastermind. A man of principles like McVeigh may have never betrayed his comrade. But now that he is dead he "certainly" won't. We will never know who was the man that so many witnesses saw and that seems to have disappeared.
    Americans should wonder if, by executing this deranged person, they simply helped others accomplish worse acts of terrorism, helped protect the real mastermind and helped turn a criminal into a myth for the younger generations.
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  • (June 2001) Bush's first-year accomplishments are staggering. A quick review of Bush's electoral platform and of his achievements as president shows that he did keep his words: he pushed through parliament some of the most stupid bills ever.
    • Let's start with Bush's number-one priority: the tax cut (see Mr Bush's mafia-style charity for wealthy people). He got what he wanted. He said this would stimulate the economy, by giving back money to the taxpayers who could afford to buy new goods. The tax cut has been passed. Few economist have reviseve his estimates for 2001 and those who have tend to revise them downwards. Did anybody notice the positive effects of Bush's gigantic tax cut? Somebody did: Republicans know that now the government is broke, so they immediately (within one week of Bush signing the tax cut) pushed through congress two provisions. The first one pretty much kills the ambitious plans to expand the military budget (not a bad thing per se, although it comes from the quarters that wanted to increase that budget) and the second one is stating point blank that the government does not have money to support social security (Bush always claimed the government had plenty of money for both a tax cut and social security). Bottom line: rich people got a lot of money back thanks to Bush's tax cut and the bill will be paid by ordinary citizens who will get less (or nothing) in social security and by the armed forces that will have to cut expenses.
    • Bush killed the Kyoto protocol aimed at curbing the emission of global-warming gases. He claimed that countries like China would be free to pollute while the United States would suffer a recession for trying to cope with Kyoto's stringent quotas. Now it turns out that China has consistently reduced emissions of carbon dioxide, even while its economy grew twice faster than the US. While the US has been polluting more and more, China has been polluting less and less. What a lesson to learn from a communist country. Bush's military priority was the missile defense program (the "star wars"). Unfortunately, that conflicts against an international treaty that has been a cornerstone of world peace.
    • In the meantime, Bush offered his "energy policy". The US is deep into an energy crisis and Bush's solution is to build about 1,300 new power plants in the next twenty years. One can doubt Kyoto's conclusions about global warming, but there is no doubt that 1,300 additional power plants will only make global warming a lot worse (it would be a 30% increase over the current level, that most experts already consider suicidal). While experts from all over the world are urging America to stop polluting the atmosphere, America's president proudly announces a plan to vastly increase the burning of coal, gas and oil. Future generations of Americans will have plenty of cheap energy, but probably no planet.
    • Bush has denounced the 1972 Antiballistic Missile Treaty that the United States signed with the Soviet Union because it is... too old. Imagine if Russia denounced a treaty with the United States on the grounds that it is... "old". Of course, Russia is outraged (why would they have to stick to any of the treaties if the US decides unilaterally to scrap one treaty) and it has worried Europeans, who do not quite see the need for this anti-missile shield when nobody is shooting missiles at anybody, and who are afraid that everybody will start building anti-missile shields if the United States does, therefore causing a new arms race. The previous one was costly (and scary) enough.
    • It is no mystery that Bush has offered a deal to China: you let me build my missile defense shield and I let you continue expanding your nuclear arsenal and maybe even resume nuclear tests (if we can dispose of one "old" treaty, why not dispose of two). Bush overlooks the fact that China is India's number one rival in Asia, and that Japan would get a little worried of being an easy target for Chinese missiles while the US enjoys its missile defense, and that if India and Japan decide to build nuclear weapons in response to a Bush-sanctioned Chinese build-up, at least Pakistan and certainly North Korea would build more of their own nuclear weapons. This would set off an arms race across Asia.
    • Bush's defense minister, Donald Rumsfeld, has outlined the new mission of the US armed forces: to defend allies, to dissuade troublemakers, to deter threats, to defeat enemies. This war-oriented agenda will bring the world back to the brink of a cold war, at a time when it is obvious to everybody that the main threat is not a country but terrorists, who can strike pretty much any time and anywhere (Disneyland, shopping malls, Silicon Valley, downtown Manhattan, you name it).
    • A centerpiece of Bush's domestic program is the legislation to force tests in all grades. The educational system in the United States will be entirely driven and based on tests. This means that schoolchildren will be required to know the answers to a finite set of questions. Teachers will de facto be redundant, because there will be no need to "teach" a subject and there will be no need to correct essays (tests will supplant essays). Needless to say, this approach is likely to produce the dumbest generation of American students ever.
    • Bush's stand on the most pressing problem, the energy crisis, is (no wonder) in sync with the demands of the oil industry (it's their money that got him elected, after all) and with the greed of Texas' energy industry. Documents prove that oil companies caused the current gasoline shortages. Mathematics proves that drilling in the Arctic reserve would provide six months at best of oil to the United States. It takes no more than a passing knowledge of mathematics (something, alas, Bush does not have) to figure out that California's high prices are caused by price fixing. But Bush instead asked California to solve the "fundamentals". Somebody should teach Bush the most important of fundamentals: California ranks number two (after Hawaii) for energy efficiency. If the entire United States had the same level of energy efficiency, the United States would rank among the top 10 in the world instead of being dead last. If California is in trouble because of its "fundamentals", one wonders what is going to happen to states (like Texas or Florida) that waste a lot more energy per person.
    • Bush's first act as president of the United States was to sign a veto on any charitable organization that in any way promotes abortion in third-world countries. This could result in the loss of millions of dollars in African operations and in the death of a few million people.
    • Bush, who is also known as "the butcher of Texas" because of the record number of people executed while he was governor of that state, has brought his laid-back approach to the death penalty to Washington and has already presided over two executions, the first federal executions since 1963. (In the meantime, realizing that many of Bush's death penalty victims may have been innocent, the state of Texas has declared a moratorium on executions).
    • Three major lawsuits were being pursued by the federal and/or local government: against Microsoft, against the tobacco industry, against the gun industry. Ever heard of them again? No? Wonder why?
    • Remember the patients' bill of right? Remember all the horror stories of abuses by health insurers? Even republican senators (the traditional supporters of the health-care industry) were shocked and supported that bill that would allow patients to sue insurance companies who refuse to pay their bills (incidentally, that's because of a loophole in the existing law, it was never meant to be that way). Bush has now threatened to veto it: under his rule, nobody is allowed to punish the criminals who speculate on your health.
    • Two recent court rulings are turning America into a tax evaders' haven. UPS was caught smuggling money to a phantom insurance policy to avoid paying taxes. UPS cheated on millions of dollars of taxes. During the Clinton years, they were caught, tried and convicted. Under Bush's changed environment, an appeal court has now decided that it is ok to cheat on taxes and has cleared UPS of all charges (note that UPS confessed to the crime and wasn't even hoping for so much generosity). Ditto for Alliant Energy, an electrical utility, that was convicted of a similar sham and now cleared by an appeal court. These rulings went unnoticed to the American public, but are basically sending a message to corporate attorneys that it is ok to provide tax shelter for large corporations. A new multi-billion dollar business has just been created: invent phantom businesses to help corporations avoid taxes. Of course, the billions of dollars of taxes that these corporations will manage to avoid will have to be paid by ordinary citizines.
    • Bush's tax cut was supposed to be 1.35 trillion dollars but now even Republicans admit it is going to cost closer to 1.8 trillion dollars. $100 billions alone are to be added because only now we are realizing the real cost of repealing the estate tax (the tax on wealthy people who die). Basically, Bush's arguments in favor of the tax cut were a gigantic heap of lies. (Compared with Bush, Clinton is beginning to look like an amateur when it comes to lying and cheating). In fact, it is likely that by the end of the year the government will have to "borrow" money from Social Security to pay its bills. Nonetheless, Phil Gramm, Dick Armey and other Bush allies want to enact more tax cuts for businesses and rich people. It looks like the Republican strategy is to steal as much money from the people as possible before the people find out. (Note: ordinary citizens will get only $300 in tax refund, and those who supported the tax cut can well pride themselves of having sold the future of their children for $300).
    • Thankfully, Bush has shelved (for the time being) the craziest of his crazy ideas: to invest social security (i.e., people's pensions) into the stock market. Millions of elderly people would have already most all of their pensions. Thankfully, the stock market crashed before Bush could do more damage.
    • With falling oil prices and the lowest interest rates in ages, the economy is collapsing. And the damage is not only in America. Countries that have entered a recession since Bush became president include: Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Italy and Japan. This is likely to be the first global recession of the 21st century and the worst in 20 years (and some predict it could become the longest on record). The previous global recessions occurred in 1975, 1982 and 1991, but, worldwide, they all showed an actual increase in world output (around 1%).
    Hopefully, the Senate will limit the madness of this president, whose bizarre political ideas are beginning to resemble those of the Roman emperor Caligula.

    (August 2001) Bush's attitude is becoming confusing because he seems to say one thing and do the opposite. In particular, he seems to have turned 180 degrees and is endorsing one after the other all the Clinton decisions that he so fiercely opposed during the campaing:

    • Contrary to what he threatened, Bush has kept US forces in Yugoslavia and has pledged more help
    • Contrary to his original stern warnings, Bush has ignored Russia's human rights abuses in Chechnya and even estrablished a personal relationship with Putin (IAmericans beware: Putin's intelligence vastly outdoes Bush's).
    • Contrary to his promises, Bush has upheld China's status of privileged trading partner and even helped China win the 2008 Olympic games (a matter that greatly strengthened the Chinese communists at home)
    • Contrary to his party's pledge to expel illegal immigrants, Bush is going to grant ! legal status to three million of them (but he gets upset if you call it "amnesty") and at a time when Americans are losing jobs by the hundreds of thousands
    • Contrary to his pledge not to waste American money for rescuing foreign countries, Bush has authorized $8 billion to rescue Argentina's economy
    Contrary to everything he campaigned for, Bush is acting more and more like one of Clinton's faithful disciples. Maybe Bush thinks he ran for vicepresident, not for president, against Gore.
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  • (March 2001) How unusual: an American kid shoots classmates Santee, in California, is the latest town to be added to the list of "this is a nice community, who could ever guess it would happen here"-kind of towns that have to pick up the debris after a kid shot his classmates. It happens in America (somehow mainly in traditional, conservative, middle-class, white communities) almost once a month. Unheard of in the rest of the world, it contributes to what is already the highest rate in the world of violent deaths among teenagers. There are angry kids everywhere, but there are armed angry kids only in America, thanks to the availability of guns. Any kid who grows up in a household with guns (50% of American households) is potentially a killer. Not because he is mentally deranged, but simply because he can use a gun to express his anger. Americans seem to be happy to raise their children in this dangerous conditions. If you live in America and have children, you must be prepared to bury your children. American parents think this is fine and dandy. And throw their support to politicians who are funded by the largest terrorist organization in the world. From the Atlanta massacre to the Colorado shooting to the most famous of them all, in Arkansas, the National Rifle Association strikes again. Today Santee mourns. Next month it could be your town, your school, your child.
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  • (February 2001) Why did Mr Bush bomb Iraq. Because he needs the attention. He is desperately trying to prove that he is the president and he is in charge and he is not retarded. Unfortunately for him, the media find president Clinton's scandals much more interesting than the proclaims of the dumb son of a previous (smart) president. Bush's advisers correctly advised him to bomb somebody. That always works to distract the media (as Clinton proved). Now who can you bomb? Not a country like China that is one of the worst dictatorships in the world but could retaliate. Not a country like Afghanistan, the worst fundamentalist Islamic country, that is the homeland to dangerous terrorists who could bomb back. You bomb Iraq, who is not allowed by law to retaliate. Bush hit Saddam because Saddam has his hands tied in the back.
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  • (February 2001) Mr Bush's mafia-style charity for wealthy people
    Mr George W Bush, the man who lost the popular vote but was appointed president, needs to pay back the powerful organizations who got him the presidency, and has decided to start his presidency with the most controversial of his plans, the tax-cut plan.
    Tax cuts are always welcome... when they benefit the working class; not when they benefit the wealthy who simply administer their wealth.
    Bush claims that middle-class families would "also" benefit. As a Reagan associate candidly admitted 20 years ago, the Republicans' plan to cut taxes for the middle families is the Trojan horse to get a tax cut for the very wealthy. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reported that, under the Bush plan, 12 million lower income families, supporting 24 million children, would not get a single dollar of tax relief (repeat: nothing). Most working singles (a huge percentage of the population in the west and east coast states) would get nothing either.
    On the other hand, under Bush's plan, wealthy Americans would get back up to millions of dollars each.
    Most American families pay very little taxes. Their problem is not that they pay too much in taxes, is that they get very little support from the government. University fees at top German universities are $100 a year. Any middle class German can hope that her child will some day attend a top German university, while in America only wealthy families toy with the dream of their child attending even a mediocre American university. Health care is available for free in all European countries, whereas in the US must be bought by individuals or their employers. Millions of Americans who are not employed must pay up to $100 a month in health insurance or be left without any. Who cares if Bush gives them a $80 discount in taxes, when they have to spend $5,000 a year to send a child to university and $1,200 a year for health insurance? If the government collects taxes for the wealthy (the people who benefit most from the work of ordinary Americans) and uses that money to provide free services to ordinary Americans, ordinary Americans are much better off than by throwing them a bone of a few bucks. It doesn't take a genius.
    Bush claims that tax relief for the wealthy taxpayers will stimulate the economy. Mathematicians fail to see that. Wealthy people do not shop at grocery stores. When they get extra money, wealthy people invest in foreign companies and buy villas in southern France. Middle-class Americans wouldn't even know how to invest abroad or buy a villa in France. Middle-class Americans are the ones who shop at grocery stores. If you return one million dollars to a tycoon, you hardly generate any new jobs (you only affect the value of real easte in the French riviera or in some caribbean island). If you return one thousand dollars per unmarried young person in New York (under the Bush plan they would get zero), you generate an economic boom in electronics and cars. It doesn't take a genius.
    Bush justifies removing the "death tax" because it is immoral. What is immoral about taxing the wealth you inherit (i.e., you did nothing to deserve) from your parents? In an ideal world, you would be entitled to zero: earn your own money, like the millions of young people who started with nothing because their families could hardly make ends meet. If you are the scion of a rich family, you already enjoyed the advantage of being raised in a wealthy environment, of being sent to a top university, of being provided with everything you needed to start your life; and now you also want to inherit your parents' wealth? Only Bush, literally, would come up with such a criminal idiocy. Even the top wealthy Americans who would benefit from this idea are rejecting it as abominable: William Gates, George Soros and others have joined to sign a petition asking Bush to reconsider. They oppose creating an aristocracy of wealth: if your parents were rich, you will be rich too, by law. It doesn't take a genius to realize that repealing the "death tax" would turn America into a feudal country, with kings and princes and barons who pass their titles down to their offspring.
    A few Republicans are telling the truth: they want a tax cut simply to give money to the wealthy. These Republicans have a simple justification: that wealthy Americans pay more taxes. At least this justification is not a sneaky, vile distortion of the truth. This justification is also flawed, but for a different reason. True, the wealthy pay more taxes. But the reason they pay more taxes is that they made more money. They made more money because the government provided them with infrastructures (think of the huge research programs that led to technological advances later exploited by the computer and telecommunications industry, not to mention roads and sewers and post offices). That "infrastructure" was paid for with taxpayers money. Today's wealthy Americans became wealthy because millions of ordinary Americans contributed tax money to build that infrastructure. Today's wealthy Americans "owe" their wealth to millions of ordinary Americans. Why shouldn't wealthy Americans pay more taxes?
    For the simple reason that they "are" this government. Here is a list of the members of the Bush administration and their wealth, according to the Office of Government Ethics: Rumsfeld 242 million, O'Neill 103 million, Cheney 81 million, Daniels 75 million, Powell 68 million, Evans 45 million, Bush 21 million, Whitman 20 million... Do we need more evidence of what the Bush administration is all about?
    The way to solve America's problems is just about the opposite of what Mr George W Bush proposes: increase taxes for the wealthy up to 100% (what sense does it make that someone earns more than one million dollars a year?), and spend the tax surplus in government programs to alleviate the cost of education, health care, etc for ordinary Americans. If you want to cut taxes, then eliminate (not just reduce) all taxes for people who earn less than $30,000. By Bush's own admission, they represent only a small percentage of the overall government income, but they would certainly appreciate the tax cut.
    It doesn't take a genius. It takes someone who belongs to the middle class and knows what America's problems are. Bush is the spoiled child of a wealthy family. And is doing everything he can to portray himself as a vile, corrupt, mafia-inspired serf of corporate America.
    It doesn't take a genius. It only takes honesty.
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  • (January 2001) Did the US Air Force down TWA 800, Swissair 111 and Egyptair 990?. The crash of TWA 800 in 1996, of Swissair 111 in 1998 and of Egyptair 990 in 1999 are still unexplained. Elaine Scarry has found enough similarities to suggest that they crashed because of electromagnetic interference, that can cause autpilots to suddenly shut down and planes to nosedive, exactly what happened on all three flights. (Swissair 111, TWA 800, and Electromagnetic Interference, then The Fall of Egyptair 990, and also TWA 800 and Electromagnetic Interference
    This theory may sound far-fetched, but think about it: don't they ask you to turn off your laptop and CD player, besides your cellular phones, during take off? What kind of damage can a laptop do? The "radiation" emitted by a laptop is minimal. Nonetheless, it would be enough to destabilize a plane during take off. The "radiation" emitted by military radars is millions of times more powerful than the one emitted by your laptop. Nobody tells military bases to turn off their radars when a plane takes off.
    The best part of this theory is that it would avenge the memory of the EgyptAir co-pilot whom western racists immediately accused of downing the plane. If Scarry's theory is correct, the EgyptAir flight is the only one that was almost saves by the crew. Whereas the Swiss and the American crews simply went down with the plane, the EgyptAir crew understood what was happening, disconnected all automatic controls and effectively stopped the downfall. Too bad that Boeing planes are made of cardboard: the plane broke in the middle while it was being turned around. But somebody on that EgyptAir plane did the right thing and was about to save the plane. For a few seconds the plane was rescued, and then it broke down only because Boeing builds them too weak.
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  • (January 2001) California: Tiptoeing at the edge of the abyss. Even before it found out that it was running out of electricity, California had more blackouts than any European country, competing with India and South America for the title of least reliable place on Earth. A mere storm is enough to leave thousands of families with no electricity for many days. Now Californians also woke up to find out that their governor (whose duties are mysterious) never realized that the state was running out of electricity. Until it did.
    Now California will rank as "the least" reliable place on Earth. No other country in Asia or Europe loses power one or two hours a day.
    For those who live in California this is only the latest inconvenience. People who live in California (unless their name is "governor Gray Davies") have known for a while that all infrastructures are obsolete and collapsing. Imagine the traffic jams if you removed 50% of the freeways and 100% of the fast trains in the area around Frankfurt: well, you just imagined an ordinary day in California. Population has been growing faster than in India, but infrastructures have been merely "updated". No new bridges have been built in 50 years. One of the most trafficked freeways, highway 5, that connects Sacramento to Los Angeles and is routinely used by millions of Californians, is still a two-lane road most of the way, which causes fatalities and nightmares year-round. California desperately needs new bridges and new freeways. Take the train? Sure, just remember to pack a calendar in your briefcase. It may take more than a day to travel the distance that a European train travels in 3 hours. Fly? Sure, just remember to leave home two hours before departure time, which makes the total travel time even longer than driving. California desperately needs public transportation and bullet trains.
    If you are coming to California, good luck in finding the place where you want to go (there are virtually no signs) and, if you ever get there, good luck in finding parking. California cities desperately need parking garages. Californians (unless they are called "governor Gray Davies") know that housing is ridiculous, that commutes are terrible, that parking is scarce even in front of your house. California neighborhoods still enjoy the view of electrical and phone wires flying high over their homes, a view that is becoming rare even in Latin America.
    Unfortunately, in California you become a politician only if you failed in every other profession. It makes no sense to be a politician when the state turns even secretaries into millionaires.
    A generation of inept politicians enganders the Californian dream. The solution? Import politicians from other states. Californians should hire governors who have proved skills in managing growth. If you are willing to pay a million dollars to a good CEO, why not pay a million dollars for a good governor?
    During the last few years, California accounted for about 30% of US economic growth. Growth in the US drove growth in most of the western world and triggered economic booms from China to Mexico. If California stops, the US stops. If the US stops, the world stops. The president of the US may be the most powerful person in the world as far as military issues go, but the governor of California is virtually the world's most powerful person as far as the economy goes. It is therefore quite disturbing to discover that California is run by a man who would not be fit to run a baseball team.
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  • (January 2001) What will Bill Clinton be remembered for? Clinton will be quoted for a long time by economists and politicians as the president who balanced the budget (by raising taxes and cutting government, both unpopular actions) and for the longest economic expansion on record (that many attribute to balancing the budget). But economic accomplishments rarely survive in the mind of ordinary people. What does survive is the memory of catastrophes. In 1994, 400,000 Tutsi were massacred in Rwanda. They were massacred only because they were Tutsi, and not Hutu. This is the largest massacre since Pol Pot caused two million casualties in Cambodia. Clinton learned of the Rwanda massacre while it was happening. He didn't do anything to save those people. He was the most powerful man on Earth when those 400,000 people were slaughtered. Bill Clinton is the president who didn't raise a finger to save hundreds of thousands of women, children and elderly people who were being maimed, raped, impaled, beheaded, etc in Rwanda. That may be how Bill Clinton will be remembered.
  • January-December 2000
  • January-December 1999

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