Friday, February 07, 2003

This small item is worth noting from today's New York Times:

"Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., who now chairs the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, has hired a coal lobbyist to oversee clean air legislation."

Breathe in that fresh air while you still can. After having lived for several years in Connecticut and watching the smog roll in from New York City on a warm summer day, I gained a better appreciation for clean air laws.

Thursday, February 06, 2003

Another interesting article in the Wall Street Journal today. That's the nice thing about the WSJ, the editorial page may be full of right-wing propaganda, but the news section is solid. Today's article on Page A4 talks about how the pharmaceutical firms got a big thank you from the Republicans in Congress after helping them take over the Senate during the mid-term elections with $50 million in campaign donations. In return, they got the U.S. to block an effort by the World Trade Organization to allow poor nations to have access to less costly generic drugs to tackle acute health problems.
At the insistence of mostly Republican lawmakers indebted to their pharmaceutical contributors, the U.S. Trade delegation stood alone among the 144 members of the WTO to block the proposal that would have distributed generic copies of patented drugs to less-developed nations. Now untold thousands of people in these desperate nations will continue to die as a result of easily treatable diseases, all thanks to Mr. Compassionate Conservative and his so-called Pro-Life Party.

On the same page is a story about the Bush administration threatening to veto the budget bill if lawmakers insist on slipping in a $3.1 billion disaster relief package for drought-stricken farmers. It's hard to feel sorry for the farmers I knew up in the Texas panhandle, all of whom vote straight-party Republican every chance they get. But they should know that it is much more important that Bush get his tax cut for the rich, before worrying about things like health care, education and disaster relief.

Oh, and the New York Times today had this on its front page: "Hiring in Nation Hits Worst Slump in Nearly 20 Years". So Bush Jr. is looking to best his father on several fronts. He has already proposed a budget with bigger deficits than his father, now he is overseeing the worst employment decline in years.

"The economy has lost more than 2 million jobs, a drop of 1.5 percent, since the most recent recession began in March 2001."

The decline was only 1.3 percent during Bush Sr. Congratulations!!!

Wednesday, February 05, 2003

Got to see The Bourne Identity last night and thoroughly enjoyed it. James Bond is great and all, and I still need to see the latest Bond flick, but this is what future Bond pictures should strive to be like. A hero who relies on his skills and instincts to survive, rather than charm and fancy gadgets. I'm looking forward to the next movie in the series The Bourne Supremacy which is now in the script stage according to several movie web sites.
In other movie news, The Lord of the Rings - The Two Towers has earned $316 million domestically so far, passing up Fellowship of the Ring for the No. 9 spot on the All-Time list. It should pass up the first Harry Potter film later this week.

Things were jumping around here today as news that Toyota has selected San Antonio for its next automotive plant finally was confirmed. It could very well reshape the southern portion of the city which has been in need of a healthy dose of economic development. The $800 million plant will employ about 2,000 people and have an annual payroll upwards of $80 million.

Tuesday, February 04, 2003

The Wall Street Journal has an excellent story on Bush's 2004 budget proposal today. They note that Bush Jr. is looking to top his Daddy's record deficits with his own record-breaking bid for $307 billion worth of red ink. The WSJ is remarkably blunt in its analysis of the Bush plan noting several areas where he is using slight of hand to make it look like he is increasing spending on popular programs when in reality he is not.

They note that Bush proposes a new "bioshield" initiative to blunt germ attacks, but then does not provide enough funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to keep up with inflation.
He touts $200 million in new spending to boost low-income home ownership, while at the same time eliminating $574 million in funds for refurbishing public housing units. Ah, I see! By letting the public housing projects deteriorate he will force the low-income tenants to move out and buy their own homes. A brilliant plan!
Bush proposes spending $450 million next year to fight AIDS in Africa, but would eliminate that same amount from other aid programs for poor nations.
Here is the key portion of the WSJ story:

"The budger crunch results partly from the bursting of the stock-market bubble, the recession and the increased need for homeland defense following Sept. 11. But it's also partly of the administration's own making. At the outset of his term, Mr. Bush engineered tax cuts of $1.3 trillion over 10 years. He refused to scale back that ambition as the budget picture darkened. He has, instead, proposed still more cuts, arguing that the best way to return the government to surplus is to spur economic growth - and thus higher tax collections - through tax cuts."

Ah, yes. Supply side economics, or "Voodoo economics" as Bush Sr. once termed it. That was how we ended up with the $4 trillion debt under Reagan. We finally managed to get back to budget surpluses under Clinton. How? The WSJ addresses that too...

"Mr. Bush's father and President Clinton were forced into similarly austere situations following Ronald Reagan's tax cuts. To restrain deficits, the first President Bush agreed to tax increases in exchange for handcuffs on federal speding. Mr. Clinton, too, raised taxes as one of his first acts.
The tax boosts, spending curbs and a booming economy combined to create the biggest surpluses in American history."

So there you have it. Today's history lesson. If you cut taxes and spend more than you have you end up with huge deficits and the economy suffers. If you raise taxes and eliminate the deficits, the economy turns around. It is called being fiscally responsible. Something that conservatives used to stand for.

But Bush is proving to be far more right-wing than his father and possibly even more so than Reagan or Nixon. His budget slashes funds for the Environmental Protection Agency and the Occupational Health and Safety Administration. Oh, and it does not account for the cost of a war in Iraq or the cost of an extended military occupation of that country during the aftermath.

Sunday, February 02, 2003

It's funny how even in today's hectic world you can still shut everything out for a day. On Saturday we kept the TV and radio off and just did odd jobs around the house while listening to CDs. I washed both cars and waxed my truck and remember thinking it was a little odd that my next door neighbor had decided to put his American flag out. Why on Feb. 1? But then I did not give it any more thought. That night we went to the symphony and the first inkling that something was up came after the intermission when the conducter said that a selection by Bach - Air from Suite No. 3 in D Major - was being dedicated to the crew of the Spaceshuttle Columbia. I thought that was odd, but maybe they knew somebody on the flight or had some other connection. It wasn't until the next morning when I picked up the Sunday papers that I finally learned of the terrible tragedy.
It wasn't like that 17 years ago when the Spaceshuttle Challenger blew up. At that time I was a junior in the Corps of Cadets at Texas A&M with a TV in my dorm room (a junior privilege). I remember just standing in my room with some of my buddies staring at the TV and watching the shuttle blow up again and again. It is disconcerting reading the names of the Challenger crew again - they had all become so familiar back then. Now we have seven new names to learn. I still have not turned on the TV. I know I will see it all soon enough.

The San Antonio Symphony was a nice treat. First we heard the full orchestra play Brahms Variations on a Theme by Joseph Haydn, Op. 56a. It was very good, but not very familiar and there were a few slow movements where I almost nodded off. But afterward they introduced a young trumpet prodigy (age 24) from Russia named Sergei Nakariakov and he accompanied the orchestra on Hummel's Concerto in E-flat major for trumpet and orchestra, the Bach piece and Arban's Variations on The Carnival of Venice. I have to say, I have been listening to a lot of jazz trumpet lately so I was not sure what I would think of the classical variety, but the kid really had his chops (as the hipsters in the jazz clubs would say). They made a point of having him be the only trumpet playing during the pieces just so you knew that all of those notes were coming out of just one horn. It was a bit like listening to an Eddie Van Halen guitar solo.
The orchestra finished the set with Haydn's Symphony No. 104 in D major "London".