Friday, January 30, 2004
1. BUDGET: HOW TO BRING DOWN AN OUT-OF-CONTROL BUDGET SURPLUS.
When George W. Bush took office he was confronted with a looming $5.6 trillion surplus over the next decade (WN
9 Mar 01). OMB turned to fabled budget guru Elie Mosinari for help. Her first move was missile defense, a tactic previous administrations had relied on to control surpluses. Toss in a tax rebate, and by the end of summer the nation was safely in red ink. President Bush hailed it as "incredibly positive news"(WN
31 Aug 01). Elie was indignant when the Congressional Budget Office projected a mere $477B deficit for this year. It's actually going to be $521B. I called Elie to congratulate her. "How do you do it," I asked? "Discipline," she replied, "things like space stations help, but we never miss a chance to correct social injustice. Take our tax break for the richest Americans. People don't realize how much it costs to be rich today: private school, suburban orthodontist, country club membership, cosmetic surgery; these are expenses the rest of us never have to worry about. I'm glad we could help."
2. INTELLIGENT DESIGN: MISSOURI SEEMS TO BE EVOLVING INTO KANSAS.
It's a familiar story, House Bill 911 before the Missouri General Assembly would force public schools to teach intelligent design as an alternative to evolution. Once again, academic freedom is being used as justification for feeding school children a dose of dopey fundamentalist religion. In the unlikely event that the bill were to actually pass, it will be challenged in court. And courts elsewhere have been pretty hard on anti-evolution. The concern is that the controversy will subject Missouri to the sort of ridicule that was showered on Kansas. And of course it should.
3. IT'S THE PITS: DECISION ON MODERN PIT FACILITY IS PUT ON HOLD.
Plutonium "pits" are the cores of modern nuclear weapons. Every pit in the U.S. weapons stockpile was manufactured at the Rocky Flats plant near Denver, which was shut down in 1989. The pits age as a result of radioactive decay and will eventually become unreliable. The infamous Nuclear Posture Review (WN
15 Mar 02) calls for a modern pit facility to be constructed that could replace pits as they age, but it could also make pits for a new and highly controversial class of small nuclear weapons. The Rocky Flats plant, however, was an environmental nightmare that must not be repeated. This week, Linton Brooks, Administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration, delayed the final environmental impact statement to address congressional concerns that construction of a modern pit facility would be premature. This infuriated the Doctor Strangeloves, whose fantasies are of nuclear bunker-busters. The source of congressional concern may be the preliminary draft of a report being developed by an independent panel of physicists that was circulated for comments.