Monday, February 28, 2005

Refresh Your Outrage

This extraordinary post by Jeanne d'Arc comes from her blog Body and Soul, the winner for Best Writing in the 2004 Koufax Awards. It refreshed the horrors of the Abu Ghraib scandal for me. Aside from being an excellent piece on the subject of torture and our tolerance for it, d'Arc's piece is a far better example of the value of blogging in my mind than any number of blogs nitpicking over the mainstream media's every utterance. It's the difference between the mob effect and Ms. d'Arc's clear expression of concern for humanity.
When it became clear that the "boys will be boys (and sometimes even girls will be boys)" spin had frozen mid-pirouette, the new story was introduced: Damn those idiots who make the rest of our brave men and women look bad. This is, I must admit, a definite improvement over the argument that torture is no big deal, but it's still immoral. The damage done at Abu Ghraib was done to Iraqi prisoners, to their friends and families, and to all Iraqis, who were sent a clear message about how our country treats their country. They are the ones who have endured, and will continue to endure, the pain. The "damage" to our military is secondary at most. After all the times we've seen the pictures, we still have a distorted view of who the victims are.

The most important thing to remember about the crucifixion of Jesus is not that it sullied the reputation of all the good Roman soldiers.
(Via Relentlessly Optimistic.)

"If America were Iraq, What would it be Like?" by Juan Cole won the Koufax award for best post and proves a must read also.
What would America look like if it were in Iraq's current situation? The population of the US is over 11 times that of Iraq, so a lot of statistics would have to be multiplied by that number.

Thus, violence killed 300 Iraqis last week, the equivalent proportionately of 3,300 Americans. What if 3,300 Americans had died in car bombings, grenade and rocket attacks, machine gun spray, and aerial bombardment in the last week? That is a number greater than the deaths on September 11, and if America were Iraq, it would be an ongoing, weekly or monthly toll.
Then there's this fascinating article about millionaire John Gilmore, who refuses to show ID when traveling within the United States. His point: the U.S. law which prevents you from doing so is a secret. That's right. You're not allowed to know about the law, which prevents you from traveling without an ID within the United States as a U.S. citizen. That regulation is described as "Sensitive Security Information."
"Are they just basically saying we just can't travel without identity papers? If that's true, then I'd rather see us go through a real debate that says we want to introduce required identity papers in our society rather than trying to legislate it through the back door through regulations that say there's not any other way to get around," Gilmore said. "Basically what they want is a show of obedience." ...

To some, Gilmore's argument is redolent of the conspiracy theories from the black helicopter crowd.

"That's the problem. How it sounds," Gilmore said. He waved his hands like some Cassandra: "They have all these secret laws! The UFOs are coming! They have guards at every airport!" Yes, he said, there is a certain odd flavor to the notion that someone shouldn't have to show ID to board a plane, but with magnetometers at the gates, guards with security wands, fortified cockpit doors and sky marshals abounding, Gilmore is asking just how much citizens are giving up when they hand their driver's licenses to a third party, in this case an airline, where it is put into a database they cannot see, to meet a law that, as it turns out, they are not allowed to read.
Interesting point, isn't it?

(Via Boing Boing.)

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Mock Mini

My buddy Jon directed me to the Counter Counterfeit Commission, yet another sneaky and entertaining marketing ploy from the folks at Mini.

Remembering the Duke

The Nation reprints this sympathetic 1965 article by Hunter S. Thompson on the Hell's Angels. Thompson effectively demonstrates that the bikers were minsunderstood and misrepresented at the time they were first entering the national consciousness.

Also, via Ann Althouse here's a Tom Wolfe tribute to Thompson, which mentions the book that arose out of the above Nation article.

Wolfe also shares this hilarious story about the first time he met Thompson:
We were walking along West 46th Street toward a restaurant, The Brazilian Coffee House, when we passed Goldberg Marine Supply. Hunter stopped, ducked into the store and emerged holding a tiny brown paper bag. A sixth sense, probably activated by the alarming eyes and the six-inch rise and fall of his Adam's apple, told me not to ask what was inside. In the restaurant he kept it on top of the table as we ate. Finally, the fool in me became so curious, he had to go and ask, "What's in the bag, Hunter?"

"I've got something in there that would clear out this restaurant in 20 seconds," said Hunter. He began opening the bag. His eyes had rheostated up to 300 watts. "No, never mind," I said. "I believe you! Show me later!" From the bag he produced what looked like a small travel-size can of shaving foam, uncapped the top and pressed down on it. There ensued the most violently brain-piercing sound I had ever heard. It didn't clear out The Brazilian Coffee House. It froze it. The place became so quiet, you could hear an old-fashioned timer clock ticking in the kitchen. Chunks of churasco gaucho remained impaled on forks in mid-air. A bartender mixing a sidecar became a statue holding a shaker with both hands just below his chin. Hunter was slipping the little can back into the paper bag. It was a marine distress signaling device, audible for 20 miles over water.

Drawing out the Night

Just stumbled across this poem I wrote a while back, and it seemed to fit:

What do you do to draw out the night?

Is it muted voices swimming in the elastic blue flicker, quivering against your shadowed walls?

Is it wandering city streets, the buildings’ crystalline hive, watchful, the occasional pedestrian hurried?

Is it a dark and indifferent dive, thick, sweating glass resting against the curve of your palm?

Or a bright, clean station, redolent of meat and caffeine, cool enamel beneath your waiting palm?

Is it driving, driving swiftly through silent suburban streets, yellow streetlamps flitting overhead?

Is it your bed, your head inclined against a pillow cool, eyes slanted, the soft periodic shuffle of switching paper?

Why the long wait to turn out the light?

What do you do to draw out the night?

--Robert Stribley, 01/02

Out the Light

Anonymoses directs us to these scary right-wing t-shirts.

Interesting how one design replaces the Statue of Liberty's illuminating torch with a machine gun. An appropriate change for this administration, I suppose, replacing reason with violence.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Angel, Come from Way Above

Angel is the latest show to fall prey to the culture police. Something about heavy breathing and neck-biting. Never seen the show, but that does make me wanna watch.

The killjoys over at the Parents Television Council lost this round, thankfully. You'll be relieved to know Because of Winn Dixie gets their Seal of Approval, though "small or sensitive children might be upset by the discussion of Opal's mother leaving her and a thunderstorm that has Winn-Dixie very scared."

I've seen the previews for Winn Dixie, and, somehow, if I had kids, I don't think I'd need to consult with PTC before taking the littluns to see it.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Seeing Chris's Smile

Some of you may have been following my brother's recovery on the blog I started for him. I've updated it with the above X-ray and some new info. Thanks for keeping him in your thoughts and prayers.

Tangentially, a Google image search for "x-ray" serves up some pretty fascinating results.

Feelings! Nothing More Than Feelings!

As TNR's Noam Scheiber points out, Republicans are being told to trust El Presidente on Social Security because of his "practical experience," which tells him privatization "is good politics and policy." Aw shucks, I feel so much better about the whole thing now that you've explained that the Prez's confidence is rooted in his feelings. Never mind what those silly diversions like economic studies, statistics, American history, and common sense might teach us. Bor-ring!

Scheiber goes on to cogently explain why he thinks privatization may backfire on the Repubs. One can live in hope!
An affluent voter knows he's going to retire in relative comfort whether or not Social Security is privatized; for a voter who sees Social Security as his main source of retirement income, the prospect of exchanging private accounts for benefit cuts is pretty alarming. Recall here the political price congressional Republicans paid when they merely flirted with "slowing the growth" of Medicare in the mid-'90s. Put it all together, and it seems possible, even likely, that the practical effect of Social Security privatization would be to reverse the now-familiar trend of working-class voters ranking social issues above economics--a trend essential for maintaining a Republican majority in Congress.
Makes sense to me.

And just for the record, we all understand that many of the Republicans in favor of privatizing Social Security aren't at it with the intention of helping old folks in retirement, right? They want to privatize it because they want to privatize everything they can. Some of them would privatize government all together if they could.

Come to think of it . . . maybe they already have.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Free Mojtaba and Arash

Today is "Free Mojtaba and Arash Day." The BBC's Carke Boyd writes about the dangers of blogging in Iran.

Rock Scissors Oscars

Chris Rock's advice to Oscar winners:
Don't thank God. God's busy working on the tsunami, so leave him alone.
Works on multiple levels. And these folks complaining about Rock's dissing the Oscars--surely, they don't think the Academy didn't see that coming. All publicity is good publicity, folks.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

RIP Hunter S. Thompson

When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson
According to his son, Hunter S. Thompson shot himself at his home in Aspen, Colorado today. The writer, raconteur, mentor to Johnny Depp, and godfather of gonzo journalism was 67 years old. For some reason, I wouldn't have pegged him the type to go that way. On the other hand, he lived his life with such abandon, I supposed it's fitting that he should go out with a bang. You never do know the demons folks are wrestling with.

ESPN's Page Two has an homage and links to the Doctor's first and last "Hey Rube" columns. His last column details a 3:30 a.m. phonecall to Bill Murray (who portrayed Thompson in the 1980 flick Where the Buffalo Roam) to tell him his newly invented sport, shotgun golf. On the other hand, I can't believe Rolling Stone doesn't even have a mention of Thompson's death on their homepage, especially considering all the writing he did for that mag. Very sad indeed. Guess that's what happens when you have a strictly controlled, marketing-oriented web site representing your mag. Guess you hafta get a "package" together, put it out there when it's been all scrutinized by the right marketing and legal folks and such. Aaaagh!

On a personal note, I guess I was never a rabid fan but more an entranced spectator of the Duke. He was such an iconoclast, and I'm sure that's what I found compelling about him.

Finally, here's a fitting quote often attributed to the old boy:
Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming, "Wow! What a Ride!"
Update 2/22: MTV's Kurt Loder writes a decent, balanced obit, and includes this great Thompson quote which shows that even the Duke understood that booze and drugs alone do not a writer make:
One day you just don't appear at the El Adobe bar anymore: You shut the door, paint the windows black, rent an electric typewriter and become the monster you always were — the writer.
And Rolling Stone finally adds a piece--which they link to unobtrusively from their homepage. Better than nothing, I guess. . . . And finally (later today) they add their "package." Toldja.

Oh yeah, Christopher Hitchens offers this Thompson obit and manages to insert this subtle but lame dig in those who opposed the war in Iraq in the second sentence:
The meeting was to be enlivened by the announcement of the forcible annexation of Kuwait by Saddam Hussein, who would go on to trouble our tranquility for another 13 years.
Sorry, Hitch. Hussein wasn't troubling our tranquility for 13 years. On the other hand, this guy--you may have heard of him--Osama Bin Laden, he severely troubled our tranquility back in 2001. It's hard to believe that Hitchens has become such a one-string banjo that he has to insert a thumbs-up to the war in Iraq in an obituary for a guy he no doubt knows full well opposed said war.

The Next Time It Happens

I just drove back to Charlotte from seeing family down in South Carolina, and I was thinking a lot about 9/11 on the way, probably because I was listening to Springsteen's The Rising for a good part of the way.

I was thinking this: when (rather than if) another attack such attack takes place on American soil, what are people going to think about this war in Iraq? Will they think the effort was worth it? Will they think it's had any impact upon the war on terror? I'm not trying to engage in preemptive schadenfreude here. And I don't mean to be needlessly pessimistic either. I'm just being realistic. We've gone down a road that probably only ensures that another massive attack on the United States will take place, and we've diverted a lot of energy towards Iraq that should have been focused on Al Qaeda like a laser beam.

Anyway, listening to the Boss, I noticed that on "Lonesome Day," he repeats the phrase "It's alright" over and over again like a mantra. Boy, we needed that mantra after 9/11 and we still need it's seemingly unjustified optimism now. You might also note that the redemptive theme of rising again after misfortune appears in lyrics across the whole album.

Bruce sounds like a father tending to a wounded child: "It's all right. Everything's going to be OK." Part of you knows it quite likely will not be all right. Part of you still appreciates the comforting words and the good intentions.
Hell's brewin' dark sun's on the rise
This storm'll blow through by and by
House is on fire, viper's in the grass
A little revenge and this too shall pass
This too shall pass, I'm gonna pray
Right now all I got's this lonesome day

It's alright ... It's alright ... It's alright ...
Thanks Bruce.

Beware of Friends Bearing Recording Devices

Well, well, well. This little development confirms a lot of what I've suspected about Bush. He's constantly jockeying between his secular and more religious constituents in order to please both parties. An old friend recorded conversations they had before W was elected the first time and in their conversations, he admitted to the following conflict:
The tapes show Bush crafting a strategy for navigating the tricky political waters between Christian conservative and secular voters, repeatedly worrying that evangelicals would be angered by a refusal to bash gays and that secular Americans would be turned off by meetings with evangelical leaders.

On one tape, Bush explains that he told one prominent evangelical that he would not "kick gays, because I'm a sinner. How can I differentiate sin?"
People say they like Bush because he takes a stand. That doesn't sound like much of a stand to me. Sounds like trying have your cake and eat it, too. Now, you could argue that all politicians do the same thing and I wouldn't disagree. In fact, it appears that the Bush administration has come up with a policy on gay marriage that strikes a fine if in my mind immoral balance. (By "fine" I mean "careful," not "good".) They get to make a nod towards the anti-gay conservatives, knowing full well that such a despicable amendment would likely never come to pass. Lynne and Dick Cheney even get to go on air repeatedly and say they're against such an amendment (but that in the VP's case, he'll "support the President") and that the states should have the right to handle the matter in whatever manner they see fit. But you'll notice what they very carefully avoid: they never, NEVER come anywhere near close to saying homosexual behavior is OK. That's the taboo. That's the thing that would infuriate their religious right.

So, even though Dick and Lynne Cheney's own daughter is gay and even though this powerful couple have a tremendous and historic opportunity before them to teach all of America a powerful lesson in decency and tolerance, they will remain silent on the matter. (John Kerry couldn't resist pointing out this hypocrisy, and he paid mightily for the awkward fashion that he did so.) A recent illustration: Lynne Cheney interviewed this past week by Terri Gross on Fresh Air. Gross asked her repeatedly to share he rpersonal thoughts on gay marriage and Cheney kept saying it's a states rights issue. She sounded angry as she repeated herself, but she never gave her personal opinion. She just parroted off the safe and distant answer again and again. I really believe Dick and Lynne Cheney are not personally anti-gay, but because of their behavior, they may as well be.

Bush and company may have gays in their administration, have gay friends and family, may even anoint gay men to be mouthpieces for the administration, but you're not going to hear them come out and say that, hey folks, all this anti-gay sentiment is wrong. We need to move along as a society and accept the fact that science and reason have comprehensively determined that this sort of sexual behavior is quite natural (of course, Bush himself may not believe that latter part, but I susepct the Cheney's do.) And that's not going to happen because that will lose the administration too many votes and too much support. So it's not taking a stand that all this is about; it's preserving support. That's not behavior possessing of any integrity, regardless of which party it's coming from. I long for a President--from either (or any) party who'll stand up and say, this sort of discrimination is wrong and here's why. Who'll educate the American populus. Guess, we'll be waiting a long while for that candidate. Kerry certainly didn't have the spine to come out that clearly on the subject.

In the recorded conversations, Bush also admitted he smoked pot. Who cares? His genuflecting before the religious right has done far more harm to his fellow Americans than any spliff toking he did all those years ago.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Household Pseudonym

Heh. That's what Joe Conason is calling "Jeff Gannon" over at Slate in a piece that reveals more of that so-called journalist's dastardly exploits.

Also Talon News has this content-lite statement on their site about the resignation of their best and brightest. All other mentions of him have been meticulously removed from the site. Try Googling "Jeff Gannon" on the site and you get about 356 results. Try clicking on any link and you'll just get one "File Not Found" message after another.

And here's Bill Maher on Gannon tonight: "I get no joy out of saying that the White House has ties to gay prostitution."

Update 02/25/05: He's baaaack.

Thursday, February 17, 2005


Rumsfeld in full-blown Strangelove mode.

Amusing WaPo article on how Rummy's alienating friends and foes alike. He tried quitting twice. Maybe he's hoping third time lucky?

Here's a classic Rumsfeldian exchange from the article:
When the ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Ike Skelton (Mo.), asked about the number of insurgents in Iraq, the secretary said, "I am not going to give you a number for it because it's not my business to do intelligent work." (He presumably meant to say "intelligence.") Ultimately, Rumsfeld admitted he had estimates at his fingertips. "I've got two in front of me," he said.

"Could you share those with us?" Skelton inquired.

Not just now, Rumsfeld said. "They're classified."
I do have to say: at least, he's entertaining.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Fowl Play at the Fight Club

Isn't it nice to know that your elected officials are using their time and your money wisely. This past week we had a Virginia senator dedicating--oh, how many hours do you suppose?--all kindsa time to passing law ensuring that no child could bear his behind (or boxers) in public.

Here's another senator judiciously using his time on behalf of the good citizens of Oklahoma "to revive cockfighting in the state by putting tiny boxing gloves on the roosters instead of razors."

Yep. The senator is concerned that a 2002 ban on the sport cost the state a $100 million dollar business. Way cool, Senator, maybe you can bring legalize dog fights and fight clubs, too.

Nah. What'd really be way cool is if such senators spent that much time and creative energy dreaming up ways to, say, educate the homeless or even just keep the roads paved. Eh?

These two senators--both of them Democrats--oughta be ashamed of themselves.

Saturday, February 12, 2005


Apparently, if you've read Rex Pickett's book, "sideways" is a reference to being totally smashed. That didn't exactly come out in the movie. I had more romantic notions of it being an allusion to love coming at you sideways or wine being stored in that position. I just read Janet Maslin's review of Smashed, a new memoir by a 24-year old reformed alcoholic, which set me straight.

Stuff like this--from Maslin's review--makes me realize there were some benefits in attending a dry school, however conservative it was:
The book attacks the "Mardi Gras culture" that equates heavy drinking, sexual exhibitionism and fun; it assails the alcohol industry for promoting images of sassy promiscuity. It connects the dots between drunken young women and Internet porn.

And it identifies date rape as an easier, sexier issue to deal with than incipient alcoholism. The adolescent girl who needs her stomach pumped, Ms. Zailckas says, is liable to be treated more kindly by doctors who think she may have been victimized sexually than by those who know she's just very, very drunk.
I'm frightened for such kids.

Six Degrees of Hussein & Bin Laden

As this guy proves, if only the CIA had utilized the time-honored Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon game, they could easily have established that a relationship between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden does indeed exist.

I'd say this is the most conclusive evidence I've seen so far.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Mercy Me

If Mary Gauthier's single "Mercy Now" is any indication of the quality of the rest of her new release, we may have an early contender for one of the year's best albums. Here's an excerpt from the song, which reminds me lyrically of Steve Earle and Lucinda Williams:
My church and my country could use a little mercy now
As they sink into a poisoned pit
That's going to take forever to climb out
They carry the weight of the faithful
Who follow them down
I love my church and country, and they could use some mercy now

Every living thing could use a little mercy now
Only the hand of grace can end the race
Towards another mushroom cloud
People in power, well
They'll do anything to keep their crown
I love life, and life itself could use some mercy now
And she sounds like she means it.

I heard the tune on Paste Magazine's latest music sampler from the new issue with Bright Eyes on the cover.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Despite All That

Let me enjoy the earth no less
Because the all-enacting Might
That fashioned forth its loveliness
Had other aims than my delight.

- from "Let Me Enjoy" by Thomas Hardy, Time's Laughingstocks, 1909

Sunday, February 06, 2005

No Method? Expect Madness

From Natalie Angier's speech "Raising Children with Secular Values in a Religious World," presented December 14, 2004 at The New York Society for Ethical Culture:
Only 13 percent of Americans say that humans evolved from ancestral species, no god involved. Only 13 percent. The evidence that humans evolved from prehominid primates, and they from earlier mammals, and so on back to the first cell on earth some 3.8 billion years ago is incontrovertible, is based on a Himalayan chain’s worth of data. The evidence for divine intervention is, to date, non-existent. Yet here we have people talking about it as though they were discussing whether they prefer chocolate praline ice cream or rocky road, as though it were a matter of taste.
That 13 percent figured stunned me. I forget that the tendency to demand scientific evidence to support one's beliefs is not only not the norm, but nowhere near the norm. But once you understand the importance of following the scientific method, you realize that skirting it is intellectually irresponsible. Skip that step and otherwise intelligent people can end up believing all sorts of nonsense. witness the Heaven's Gate cult. The truth, however, is that many people who would mock those cultists in their black track suits are guilty of the same sort of irrational thinking. It's just that the ideas they buy into are far more popular.

Additionally, check out this NYT story about how evolution is not getting taught at many public schools.
In districts around the country, even when evolution is in the curriculum it may not be in the classroom, according to researchers who follow the issue.

Teaching guides and textbooks may meet the approval of biologists, but superintendents or principals discourage teachers from discussing it. Or teachers themselves avoid the topic, fearing protests from fundamentalists in their communities.
Additionally, the NYT quotes a 2001 survey, in which the National Science Foundation found that only 53 percent of Americans agreed with the statement "human beings, as we know them, developed from earlier species of animals."

That's a little more encouraging than the 13 percent statistic, but only because it still allows for folks to believe that God guided or had a hand in evolution. It's all in how you ask the question, of course.

Compare these figures with up to 80 percent of people believing in evolution in other industrialized nations. In Japan, 96 percent.

We've got a long way to go, baby.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Doin' Us Proud

AP: Cheney, flanked by his wife and Israeli President Moshe Katsav at the Holocaust memorial event. Click photo for large version. WP article here.

What Price Progress?

Who can overestimate the progress of the world if all the money wasted in superstition could be used to elevate and civilize mankind?

Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899)

Geraldo's Grand Gesture

This story about Geraldo Rivera's interview with Michael Jackson, wherein said "newsman" declares his confidence of the gloved one's innocence, ends with this stunning offer by Rivera: He will shave off his famous moustache if Jackson's declared guilty.

So, Geraldo, are you a blade kinda guy or an electric kinda guy?

Guess we'll probably find out.

(Aside: I'm willing to believe that MJ's just stuck in a Peter Pan phase and not really guilty . . . but the evidence does seem to be mounting.)

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Sailing Until the Calm Morning

I mentioned this poem by Theodore Roethke in the comments below and just had to reproduce it here as it's probably my favorite of his. Your reading of it would really benefit from knowing some key details about Roethke's life. In short, he spent a lot of time in his father's greenhouse as a child, so much of his poetry is ripe with organic imagery. Additionally, he suffered greatly from severe manic depression for much of his life. Keep those facts in mind and this poem becomes all the more encouraging, and even deeper in its already considerable beauty.
Big Wind

Where were the greenhouses going,
Lunging into the lashing
Wind driving water
So far down the river
All the faucets stopped?-
So we drained the manure machine
For the steam plant,
Pumping the stale mixture
Into the rusty boilers,
Watching the pressure gauge
Waver over to red,
As the seams hissed
And the live steam
Drove to the far
End of the rose-house,
Where the worst wind was,
Creaking the cypress window-frames,
Cracking so much thin glass
We stayed all night,
Stuffing the holes with burlap;
She rode it out,
That old rose-house,
She hove into the teeth of it,
The core and the pith of that ugly storm,
Ploughing with her stiff prow,
Bucking into the wind-waves
That broke over the whole of her,
Flailing her sides with spray,
Flinging long strings of wet across the roof-top,
Finally veering, wearing themselves out, merely
Whistling thinly under the wind-vents;
She sailed until the calm morning,
Carrying her full cargo of roses.

- Theodore Roethke
So many of us seem to be having a rough time of it of late--people I know well, as well as throngs of people so far away whom I don't know at all. May we all hang on through the storm, sail through into the calm morning, and each take care to preserve his or her own unique and lovely cargo of roses.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Hey, that Smarts!

In his must-read column today, Paul Krugman gives the social security privatization crowd a good spanking.

He ends his piece with this dilemma for the privatizers:
Which brings us to the privatizers' Catch-22.

They can rescue their happy vision for stock returns by claiming that the Social Security actuaries are vastly underestimating future economic growth. But in that case, we don't need to worry about Social Security's future: if the economy grows fast enough to generate a rate of return that makes privatization work, it will also yield a bonanza of payroll tax revenue that will keep the current system sound for generations to come.

Alternatively, privatizers can unhappily admit that future stock returns will be much lower than they have been claiming. But without those high returns, the arithmetic of their schemes collapses.

It really is that stark: any growth projection that would permit the stock returns the privatizers need to make their schemes work would put Social Security solidly in the black.

Read the whole piece to learn about Dean Baker's "no economist left behind" challenge, too.