All of us start fresh tomorrow, but I am leaving 2004 as grumpy as the year made me. On the national scene, I cannot wait for Secretary of State Colin Powell to be gone. He was in the...

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All of us start fresh tomorrow, but I am leaving 2004 as grumpy as the year made me.

On the national scene, I cannot wait for Secretary of State Colin Powell to be gone. He was in the news again briefly for telling President Bush that more troops are needed in Iraq. Give it up, Mr. Secretary; why do you bother?

Powell was resolutely ignored by the Bush administration for four years, and his credibility was used and abused with that humiliating pre-war speech to the United Nations. If Powell had the integrity I associate with the man, he would have resigned.

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Principled, pointed departures are rare. Indeed, I can only recall the 1980 resignation of Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, who quit because he disagreed with President Jimmy Carter’s ill-fated rescue attempt during the hostage crisis in Iran.

For all of the military’s gripes, name a significant resignation to protest how the Vietnam war was prosecuted.

Otherwise, the usual pattern is to wait until the pension is secure and the book contract is in place, and then go on “The News Hour” or Fox News like the plague of second-guessing retired lieutenant colonels who turn up as experts.

For true integrity, I was deeply impressed by the canvassing-board members surveyed by David Postman, The Seattle Times’ chief political reporter. These people did the hard, careful work to re-examine votes in the race for governor.

Many are Republicans in far-flung counties whose sympathies are with Dino Rossi, the GOP candidate. In good conscience, they could not agree to reopen counts again. They did not like the results, but they knew the care that went into affirming a stunningly close election.

Another secretary of state, the one in Olympia, has offered exemplary public service during the election controversy. Republican Sam Reed is the model of competence and grace under fire.

Here is the hot word for 2005: debt. It will take epic poets to describe the wine dark seas of red ink the Bush administration will flood by the public.

Bush went to war on President Bill Clinton’s surplus and the chaotic aftermath is all going on the national credit card. The next round of WMDs will be the words of mass deception that contrive a crisis to justify trashing the Social Security system.

One scam would borrow trillions to cover the money siphoned off to personal investment accounts. Expect the campaign to be as disingenuous as the lead up to the war.

Social Security does need to be fine tuned. Taxes will have to go up or benefits reduced or retirement dates adjusted, but unlike, say, Medicare financing, there is time to find a solution.

If the Democrats want to survive, they must lead the charge to devise reforms. I’ve got them covered on slandering the Republicans in the White House or Congress. How will the D’s actually make it all work?

I fully expect federal borrowing to drive up interest rates and pump a little life into my dormant money-market account. Uncle Sam desperately needs the cash, and foreign lenders, already suspicious of America’s profligate ways, will start expecting higher interest rates.

Here comes some serious harrumphing directed at twenty-somethings, an age group quickly being relegated to life as post-modern adolescents. Dudes, you’re screwed.

Did you read the stories about federal student-loan money drying up? Domestic spending is disappearing to pay for the war, tax cuts and interest on the debt.

Wait until federal borrowing gooses the financial markets and eventually drives up credit-card interest rates. You spend too much money on stuff you do not need and cannot afford, and you do not vote. The political anagram for this spells out: chump.

The massive — and growing — debt load you carry is self-inflicted one pizza at a time. Spare me the I-need-a-car-to-get-to-work-to-pay-for-school scenario. Ditch the car, drop the insurance and ride the bus. Quit trying to maintain a lifestyle it took your parents 20 years to provide for you. Toss the cellphone, too; its monthly overhead is way over your head.

State tuition is going up like video-game prices. And you are going to do what about it? Do you have a clue who your state representative is?

Debt rudely defines choices for nations and individuals.

Grumble. Mutter.

Mother Nature provided a nasty dose of humility. After the shock and horror of the tsunamis that devastated Asia from Somalia to Thailand abates, and the foreigners flee, local survivors have to put their lives back together. One remedy, as vital as the first waves of emergency aid, may be microcredit, tiny loans that start businesses and get others back on their feet.

Earlier this month, Congress passed the Microenterprise Results and Accountability Act of 2004. It supports a financing technique with success around the globe.

Southern Asia’s poorest will need this innovative and effective help with rebuilding.

Best wishes for 2005. Harrumph.

Lance Dickie’s column appears regularly on editorial pages of The Times. His e-mail address is Look for more of his thoughts on the STOP blog, our editorial online journal at