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1/29/2003

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How Will We Pay for President Bush' New Initiatives?
    Last night, as President Bush laid out multi-billion-dollar initiatives, coupled with a tax cut that would eliminate the tax on dividends, and a ground war in Iraq, I found myself wondering where the money would come. I said something about it out loud, and Tommie said she'd been thinking the same thing. Today, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that for 2003, we would face a budget deficit of 200 billion dollars.
    As bad as that sounds, honesty impels me to observe that deficit spending isn't the royal road to Wrack and Ruin that one might suppose. If it were, we would already have arrived at Wrack and Ruin. The key point is that the federal revenue must grow faster than the deficit... which it normally does. It really isn't the same as the situation that arises when an individual goes deeper and deeper into debt. (Actually, it would be the same if the individual's income were rising faster than the payments on his debt. If his payments become a smaller and smaller fraction of his income, he will effectively be paying down his debt, even though his total indebtedness and his interest rates are very slowly rising.)
    The Congressional Budget Office' estimate of our budget deficit probably doesn't include Mr. Bush' new initiatives. His proposal that we spend 15 billion dollars providing medicine to African AIDS patients, and prevention aids to those not yet afflicted with AIDS is one that resonates with me. I would personally be glad to make some sacrifices for such a cause. I'm enthusiastic about seeing us Westerners share our wealth with our less fortunate neighbors, especially in the form of educational support and the creation of local business opportunities.
One World or None?
    AT&T had some ads during the civil rights era that showed some inner-city children, and said, "If they don't make it, neither will we. I think that applies to the rest of the world. Today, we are closer physically to India or New Guinea than Washington was to Philadelphia when the United States was born. We can contact New Delhi or Papua instantly by phone or over the Internet. Culturally, we're watching Oprah and Larry King Live all over the globe. I'm sure that "Star Wars" and "AI" have girdled the globe. We're becoming one world. The United States pioneered in religious  tolerance, and the intermingling of ethnic backgrounds, but by now, I'm sure that this eggbeater action is taking place around the world. We can travel to Nepal faster than George Washington could get to Richmond. We must learn to live together,  and to celebrate our differences. We are our brothers' and our sisters' keepers.

    THE PARTICIPANT

I am a part of something big.
Dust that is now my dust was blown
Through the corridors of the pyramids
Before the final stone was placed.
My blood has raced with the Amazon
And surged in the tides of the Yellow Sea.
My bones were sketched when the world was new
And etched on the ocean floor

Everything everywhere touches me.
The smallest beetle is my affair,
And the oldest man, and the youngest child.
When pink flamingos feed at dawn
In the shrinking marshes of Bangladesh
I too am fed. When the polar bear
Claws at the bullet in her flesh,
And her young ones crouch in the growing chill,
I am not quite what I used to be,
I am less than I was before.

Just where I stand in the grand design
Whatever the grand design may be,
I do not know and I cannot guess,
But I give and take with a careful hand,
And I watch the world with an anxious eye,
For I share in the life of all who live
And the death of all who die.

              ---Vivian Smallwood


....while progress creeps in on little cat feet.
    An article that appeared today, Australia Starts Hi-Tech Passport Check System  - BBC, describes an Australian facial recognition system that is being installed to check passengers. This is going to seem to be just another little technical gizmo, but it's one of those supporting technologies that leads on to higher level robotics.
    Another article, Web speech spec gets tongue-tied  - C/Net, deals with the standards required to bring full-scale conversation to computers.
     These steps are technical enhancements that will soon be taken for granted, but little by little, they're leading to many of the supporting technologies for higher and higher-level artificial intelligence. Artificial "intelligences" still won't be anything more than facile machines unless volition and sense of self awareness can be programmed into them... a development I would be in no hurry to see happen. As long as computers remain unaware and devoid of agendas, they will be inanimate and mindless, however adept they might be at chess or speech recognition.
    I believe that true inorganic intelligences, if they existed, might also want to use other, mindless machines, such as computers and thermostats the same way we use computers and thermostats.