Saturday, August 14, 2004

Humor

Well, for those who don't know I spent last night down in Orlando (and the night before that actually). So I got to go through the hurricane, which didn't effect me very much. The hotel where I was staying was a bit clear of the path, I think. And after a bit I'll upload my pictures and relate my story (such as it is).

But about 6:30 or so last night, I went down to get some Ice and I was thinking about a really funny bit I could have shared with you. Basically I would switch personas (as I often do) into someone very clueless and self involved, and pretend that my harrowing story of being trapped in a hotel would make a good movie. This was particularly funny as I thought about writing about my long trek to get the ice (It was a long way from my room, nearly a minute).

But the idea died about there. The problem is who exactly am I making fun of? In my mind it would just be me (or some aspect of myself) that was so terminably clueless as to imagine that being trapped for a couple of hours in a hurricane would be a springboard to Hollywood success.

But once you let an idea out of your head, anybody could do anything with it. For example, somebody could suppose that I was making fun not of myself but of the survivors of hurricane Charley in Orlando. The ones who suffered large property damage or the ones who lost loved ones. They might assuming I was suggesting these people are clueless or that they are self dramatizing their life or that the hurricane hadn't really been all that bad.

And some people would agree with what they assumed was my opinion, and others would, quite rightly, think I was somewhat a horrible person for denigrating the suffering of others.

So I dropped it in a rare bit of self-censorship. But now I'm not sure I made the right call. After all my reasoning kind of rests on assuming that people are going to misread my intent. But doesn't that assumption eventually lead to no communication? I mean this post one could worry that it is self aggrandizing or indulgent.

'Tis a fine line. But I suppose you just have to do the best you can, which is a cliche, but it's all I've got.

Friday, August 13, 2004

I've Fallen and I Can't Get Up

I'm in a hotel in Orlando and i am not able to leave. So this is good.

In other news, Rush Limbaugh demonstrated his standard coherence relating a Washingt Times article.

Now, granted, this is an intelligence official, not bin Laden using the slogan, but they think that if - if bin Laden is going to launch an attack, or Al Qaeda's going to launch an attack on this massive a scale prior to the election, he, obviously he's trying to affect the election, and the conclusion is that they'd like to get rid of Bush.

Now, I wonder why. If -- if this is true -- we're just asking here -- this is true, why would they want to get rid of Bush? Why they going to get -- maybe -- all right. To survive? Of course, Mr. Snerdley. Way to go, Snerd. It's to survive. They'd rather -- they'd much rather have some softie who's going to farm out our -- our security to international organizations and others, oh, like -- like John Kerry.
This is so mind boggling stupid it's hard to work up much energy to refuted it. But here goes.

Al-Qaeda believes that they have God on our side. They believe they are going to win. This is the same sort of mentality as that of a thief or a murderer who doesn't think of the punishment because they are sure they won't get caught. Any sensible person would say, "Hey, fighting the United States isn't a smart thing to do."

Not Al-Qaeda. They want a showdown with the United States and they are getting it with President Bush. Why would they want a change? And in fact, other Al-Qaeda operatives have expressed a preference for President Bush.

Of course you might say "Well, so President Bush will kill more terrorists; doesn't that mean we should vote for him?" Well I'm all for killing terrorists; but the end goal isn't to kill terrorists, it's to make America safer. I think Senator Kerry will do a better job at making America Safer (which will include, of course, going after terrorists).

John Kerry Speaks!

This line was quoted by the Daily Howler (which is brilliant in case you don't know), but it's worth repeating.

Yes, I would have voted for the authority [to go to war]. I believe it's the right authority for a president to have. But I would have used that authority as I have said throughout this campaign, effectively. I would have done this very differently from the way President Bush has.

And my question to President Bush is, Why did he rush to war without a plan to win the peace? Why did he rush to war on faulty intelligence and not do the hard work necessary to give America the truth? Why did he mislead America about how he would go to war? Why has he not brought other countries to the table in order to support American troops in the way that we deserve and relieve a pressure from the American people?
The Bush campaign and their helpful friends in the "Liberal" media are helping create the impression that this is brainy incomprehensible nonsense. Back in the old day, the Media would make statements such as this one, which is clear enough to begin with, even simpler to understand. These days, our "liberal" friends in the media make this statement seem even more confusing.

If I was in the media, I'd put it somewhat like the Daily Howler put it; "Bush deserved to have the authority, but he used it unwisely!" Seems like that's not that hard to understand. I mean you might not agree with Senator Kerry's assessment, but why do we have to pretend thinking he screwed up is somewhat incomprehensible?

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Round the Horn on the Road

Probably a short edition this week, because i'm on the road. Due to worsening storm conditions I may be stuck here through Saturday, so might not be able to update for a while. In the meantime check out these posts.

Iddybud has a good review of a book I mentioned earlier this week called Bush on the Couch.

Respectful of Ottors has a nice story about how Sandy Berger has been cleared of wrongdoing. So I'm guessing everybody who was calling for him to be strung up is now apologizing for their error. Or not.

Happy Furry Puppy Story Time has a tone poem on how to vote in case of a terrorist attack. .

Bark Bark Wolf Wolf has a comment on a favorite episode of the West Wing.

This is short, but if I can I'll do another mini one tomorrow.

An Anouncement

We hope you have enjoyed our special programming of Bush Bashing. We now return you our regular program . . . of Bush Bashing.

No, seriuosly, I'm on the road today, and I'm already running behind, so I'll try to post tonight. But for the rest of the day, you're on your own.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

A Clarification

For those who don't' know me very well, and may not understand where I am coming from, it may have appeared as if some of the posts before were critical of the United States Military, and the troops in the field.

I just want to clarify that I think, with a few scattered exceptions, that our troops have performed admirably. I think we should all be proud of the work our soldiers are doing under very trying circumstances.

However, I remain very critical of the decisions made by the administration that have failed to use these soldiers in the best way possible.

To be specific, I think we should have done more in Afghanistan to prevent it from returning to a warlord state. The decisions not to do that were not made by any soldiers on the ground and I am well aware that we still do have a troops in Afghanistan, who must be operating under very difficult situations. My criticism is not aimed at them; but at a policy of minimal involvement in Afghanistan that has made their situation more difficult. There is clearly a difference between doing nothing and doing sufficient. We are somewhere in that grey area.

I think that the Bush Administration, specifically Donald Rumsfeld, tried to pursue the Iraq war on the cheap, which lead to, among other things, the looting of the Iraqi Museum referenced below. I'm not arguing that American soldiers should have, on their own, run over to the museum and protected it from the loiters at the cost of their own lives. That would be ludicrous of me to suggest that. While I strongly deplore the loss of historical artifacts caused by the looting, I would not want to sacrifice troops mindlessly to protect them.

I am suggesting that Donald Rumsfeld, President Bush, and others who planned this war failed to anticipate the looting and other civil unrest (seduced as they were by Ahmad Chabili and other Neo-Conservative's visions of happy Iraqis throwing flowers). Why didn't our troops go into combat with the proper equipment and the proper training and the proper numbers? Why did we allow the looting? Again, because the Bush administration was trying to hide the cost of this war from the American people, and wanted to believe that they could accomplish their foreign policy goals without harming their Domestic agenda (of, as we discussed yesterday, enormous tax cuts).

I hope this clarifies my position for any who are confused.

Who's Next

Incidently, if you think our invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan were big success, they are starting to be rumblings that we might heat up the war in Iran before the November elections.

My first piece of evidence came from listening to old Rush Limbaugh at lunch yesterday. Rush was talking about Senator Kerry's rationale for supporting the Iraqi War Resolution (IWR), and suggesting that if Iran is next on the list. He speculated that, by Kerry's own rationale, if the vote on an Iranian War Resolution (confusingly enough, also IWR) comes before the election than Kerry will be duty bound to vote for it. Hilarious.

I was surprised to hear Iran had been put back on the table, frankly. I don't think there's anybody who doesn't know that the odds of us invading Iran are reasonably high if we reelect President, and much lower if we elect Senator Kerry. Which, to me, doesn't seem like a selling point. But maybe I'm just out of step with my fellow Americans.

But Rush isn't really the sort of guy you can take seriously on these sorts of issues. Today's Salon had an editorial, however, details the number of respected White House advisors who are pushing an "invade-Iraq" policy.

". . . the perception that the neocons -- including Wolfowitz, Richard Perle and Douglas Feith -- have been routed, or are in retreat, could not be further from the truth. They are as firmly in control of the levers of real power in the government as they were in the yearlong, synchronized buildup to their war in Iraq. Not a single National Security Council or Pentagon official who eagerly rode the bandwagon for the war has been fired. Dick Cheney's chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, and aide John Hannah continue to enjoy the full confidence of the vice president."

So the people who got us into Iraq are all still advising the President. That's comforting.

It was stated quite expressly by Rice this past weekend: Don't worry about our failure to find any evidence of WMD after our preemptive war on Iraq -- we may be forced to take such preemptive action very soon against its neighbor, Iran.

If that October surprise doesn't rally voters back around Bush and ensure four more years for him and the neocons, what will?

The pattern of preparation for this is all too familiar from the buildup to war with Iraq. First, the war drums are sounded by the same old "experts"; then they are amplified by alarmist columnists. Once you see Krauthammer or Ledeen opining, as they have over the past two months, that Iran's nuclear capability poses the gravest possible threat to Civilization as We Know It, and that The World Cannot Afford to Wait and Negotiate, then you can guarantee -- conveniently close to the election to panic voters into supporting the president -- that Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld will pick up the chorus.

Ledeen has already written at least two columns on the subject. Krauthammer, prophet of the Iraq war, has made quite clear his determination to unleash a new one.
We'll see what happens. Personally I don't think it's that crazy to assume that the Bush Administration will continue to do what they've already done. I leave it up to the reader to determine whether or not that is a good idea.

Time to Forget

You're free to forget. So forget! So said the broadside put out by the Diggers in 1966 to berate their fellow hippies. And it seems fitting when we talk about the looting spree that occurred shortly after United States troops conquered Iraq. Salon printed a story on the incident, as did many others.

On April 10, a day after Saddam Hussein's regime collapsed and Baghdad was in the hands of U.S. military forces, the National Museum of Iraq was ransacked. In a matter of hours, thousands of Iraqis, some thought to be working for art dealers, clambered into the museum that had been closed to the public for years. After two days of looting, almost all of the museum's 170,000 artifacts were either stolen or damaged. Ancient vases were smashed. Statues were beheaded. In the museum's collection were items from Ur and Uruk, the first city-states, settled around 4000 B.C., including art, jewelry and clay tablets containing cuneiform, considered to be the first examples of writing. The museum also housed giant alabaster and limestone carvings taken from palaces of ancient kings.

"It's catastrophic," says Gibson, who is also head of the American Association for Research in Baghdad, a consortium of about 30 U.S. museums and universities. "It's a lot like a lobotomy. The deep memory of an entire culture, a culture that has continued for thousands of years, has been removed. There was 5,000 years of written records, even Egyptian records don't go back that far. It's an incredible crime."
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld offered a particularly cogent defense of the United States failure to protect the Museum, saying, "The images you are seeing on television you are seeing over and over and over, and it's the same picture of some person walking out of some building with a vase, and you see it 20 times, and you think, 'My goodness, were there that many vases? Is it possible that there were that many vases in the whole country?'"

Already some of you are saying, hey, what's this? Why are you getting all hung up on some moldy old relics. Well for one my training is in History and I have a particular fondness for mold old relics. Someday I hope to be one.

But more importantly, this is a convenient place to grab hold of a larger issue. We invaded Iraq and, in essence, eliminated the legal and governmental structures that would have prevented these sort of lootings from happening. And then we stood by and let this and a thousand other lesser crimes occur and did little. Why?

If you see Control Room, and I urge you to if you get the chance, one of the more interesting scenes involves a United States Military spokesman explaining to a CNN reporter that the Iraqi people are responsible to police themselves. It's time to forget what happened 20 days ago when we invaded and took over.

What if we had clamped down on the looting right off the bat. What if the United States government had listened to experts within the State Department, and others like McGuire Gibson (referenced in the Salon article) and been prepared to impose order on the Iraqi people? Some would have been angry with us; but in the long run might not our willingness to enforce civil behavior have paid big dividends? Particularly now as we are facing insurgencies left and right.

It's hard to say, and I suppose, since that moment has passed, we may as well forget. Flowers are lovely.

Afghanistan

So about Afghanistan. You know that country where Al-Qaeda was? How are things going there? Well, fortunately, they must be going great. I mean you don't see a lot of news about Afghanistan, unlike some countries (cough cough, Iraq, cough cough). So I guess everything there must be going great. Or, alternative, we just don't give a damn about Afghanistan and have happily let them drop off our radar. Take your pick.

John Sifton, a human rights worker reported on Afghanistan about a year ago, and the picture he painted wasn't a pretty one.

"Something is rotten in the Islamic State of Afghanistan," an old Afghan is saying to me one night after dinnertime. He is a Kabuli, a local humanitarian worker, and he seems to like making literary jokes. We have just dined together on fried chicken and rice in his small apartment. He is explaining why he is pessimistic about Afghanistan's future.

"The leaders are criminals," he says, referring to Afghanistan's warlords. It is a cool spring night earlier this year, and the old man is sitting on his couch across from me, lecturing me about the past. All of Afghanistan's current military and police leaders, he says, have blood on their hands from past war crimes. Specifically, he refers to the civil fighting in Kabul from 1992 to 1995, detailing how various commanders, including Fahim and Sayyaf, were involved. They killed, he says, and now they rule.

"Like Hamlet's uncle," he says. "But," he continues, "they have no remorse."
And things have continued in that vein since then. Check out this overview of Amnesty International's 2004 Report on Afghanistan.

A deteriorating security situation undermined human rights. Serious human rights abuses and armed conflict continued in many areas. The criminal justice system remained ineffective and was a source of violations rather than a mechanism for providing justice. Women and girls in particular faced discrimination in the justice system. Police lacked pay, training and control structures. Prison conditions were poor. Detainees were held for excessive periods before appearing before a judge. Women and girls faced a high level of violence. Rape and sexual violence by armed groups was reportedly common. Violence in the family, and forced and underage marriage, were widespread.
We invaded Iraq for a lot of reasons. Some of those reasons seem pretty shakey now (like the connections between Iraq and Al-Qaeda or the Weapons of Mass Destruction). But some of them are still relatively plausible. For example the Iraqi people were oppressed by a cruel dictator and were in a rough spot, so it's only human to want to help them out. Or the idea that an Islamic state that embraced Capitalism and Democracy would have a liberating effect throughout the middle east. And of course, now that we have invaded, don't we have a responsibility to help them get back on their feet?

Funny thing, however, the Afghans fit all those criteria too. They were being oppressed by the Taliban, now they are oppressed by the warlords. Rebuilding them into a stable capitalistic democracy would have roughly the same effect as rebuilding Iraq (as near as I can tell). And of course, we did invade Iraq and topple their government.

Plus, according to the CIA world book, Afghanistan is the worlds largest producer of Opium. Perhaps we might have helped them do something to contain that problem, seeing as it affects us as well.

But Afghanistan hasn't been on President Bush's radar screen for quite a while. Pity, really.

Bush Bashing, Day 3

Well,this is the day I'm scheduled to talk about President Bush's accomplishments in the realm of foreign policy. Such a wide banquet to choose from, I had better state at the top what subjects I'm not going to dive into.

I'm not going to cover President Bush and the Attacks on September 11th. I'm not going to cover the untruths that the Bush administration spread to get us to invade Iraq. And I'm not going to cover the Patriot Act. These subjects are too big to cover properly in one day, and have been very well covered in the past.

Instead I'll be going over some of the other subjects, like Afghanistan. Like our failure to maintain the peace in the days following our invasion of Iraq. And so on and so forth.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Education: Smarten Up!

If I had an additional day, I probably would have given further time to education, the environment, and so on. As it is, I have to wrap this up tomorrow, so going to do Education quickly.

I was listening to Molly Ivin's Bushwhacked as I drove around today; she was covering the Texas "Miracle" and the fuzzy accounting that was used to promote that testing.

Basically here's how it works in theory, if I understand correctly. Students are graded every so often. If the test scores for the school improve, the school receives more money. If the test scores for the school drop, the school gets less money. This has several negative effects; one being that struggling schools are going to continue to struggle. Ambitious motivated teachers will seek postings in more successful schools (where they are better compensated). Programs not directly tied to increasing test scores will be cut.

And there is no proof that doing better on this standardized test will lead to greater success later in life. Even during the Texas "miracle" when scores on the state test were jumping by leaps and bounds, scores on the SAT and the ACT remained constant.

Conservatives see the educational process as kind of like a factory (and they have for years). Kids go in, educated students come out. The factory workers (i.e. teachers) aren't producing the right kind of kids? Well start scaring them so they work harder or better. Cut their salaries, mandate longer hours, and so on and so forth. The problem with this mentality is that teachers aren't factory workers. I personally think we, as a society, should treat teachers more like we treat doctors or lawyers.

Incidently if you are pro-teacher and you want to get really mad, check out these words by David Horowitz, which go some way to understanding the conservative view of teachers (for a good rebuttal of Horowitz, check out this cartoon by Tom Tomorrow).

The first step in understanding the public education mess is to realize that IT'S NOT ABOUT MONEY. Teachers -- despite the widespread myth -- are overpaid and underworked. . . . As a result of the contracts negotiated by their unions, teachers are not required to be at their job more than six hours and 20 minutes a day. When you add to that the fact that teachers only work nine months out of the year, and then calculate teachers' pay on the basis of the eight-hour-day and 11-and-a-half-month year that the rest of us work, the pay for a seventh-grade science teacher in New York City is between $60 and $70 an hour. That amounts to an annual salary of well over $100,000.
Of course another key to understanding conservative disdain for teachers is that they tend to vote Democratic.

For some real anger about President Bush's educational plans, check out this article by Greg Palast. For a more satirical look, check out this article by Joyce McGreevy.

There should, perhaps, be a limit to how much you can steal from the American Taxpayer

Perhaps. I don't want to go out on a limb, but this article (published February 5, 2002) by the invaluable Molly Ivins did raise certain questions about the wisdom of rewarding companies that defraud the American Government and the American Taxpayer.

On Jan. 25, the administration ordered federal agencies to review their contracts with Arthur Andersen and Enron, saying the scandal swirling around the companies raises doubts about whether they should continue to receive taxpayer money.

This would be well and good if the same administration had not, on Dec. 27, repealed a Clinton-era rule that prevents the government from awarding federal contracts to businesses that have broken environmental, labor, tax, civil rights or other laws. What we have here is not so much hypocrisy as complete incoherence. Shouldn't they have to wait at least a month before they contradict themselves? Or maybe the Bush doctrine is that you can give government contacts to chronic lawbreakers as long as they're not in the headlines.

The repeal of the Clinton rule by the Bushies -- nicely timed for minimum attention between Christmas and New Year's -- stopped federal agencies from considering the lawbreaking record of corporations in the process of granting contracts. As you know, many corporations repeatedly violate the law, and if and when they are caught, they pay a slap-on-the-wrist fine and continue on their merry way. A study by Associated Press found hundreds of contractors that remain eligible for federal contracts despite having been convicted of or sued for defrauding the government.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce naturally denounced the Clinton rule as "blacklisting" and even organized a National Alliance Against Blacklisting with other business groups. Blacklisted for repeatedly breaking the law? What a dreadful thought. Lawbreakers have to make a living, too, so why not reward them with millions of taxpayer dollars?
Thank goodness President Bush and the "adults" are back in charge of the treasury.

Bush Verses Science

Now let's move beyond the deficit and start talking about the consequences of President Bush's other domestic policies. When President Bush took office, new federal safety guidelines protecting workers from repetitive stress injuries were about to become law. These regulations had been under developement for 10 years; President Bush, with help from Congressional Republicans, killed them almost immediately. Molly Ivin's pointed out the particular foolishness in these actions.

business can be counted upon to threaten to shut down or move to Taiwan if forced to do anything to protect workers' health or safety.

But remember the key question: "How much does it cost not to do it?'' The labor unions were claiming that repetitive stress costs up to $9 billion a year. So, as Jonathan Alter reported in Newsweek, the Republicans commissioned a study to refute this absurd claim from the prestigious National Academy of Sciences. The NAS report came out in January, and it says that repetitive stress costs $50 billion a year in lost wages and productivity.

So it costs significantly more to deal with the consequences of a preventable workplace injury than it does to fix it. Not to mention (and who would?) the human misery involved. But the business community decided to call in its campaign contribution chips to kill the measure anyway. Go figure.
The science on repetative stress injuries is pretty cut and dry to any reputable scientist. And these regulations would made millions of workers lives less painful. Oh well.

The Economic Outlook from Ground Level

So what does this all the economic gloom and doom mean for the little guy? Zompist paints what has to be a somewhat discouraging picture (thanks to Random Goblin for pointing this out).

I'm looking for work right now, and pickings are very slim... if anything it seems worse than the last time I was in the market, three years ago. There aren't many programming jobs, and competition is high, not only from a glut of IT workers left adrift by the crash, but from outsourcing. (A friend of mine has the charming job of moving jobs overseas. He reports that India is no longer the hot place to go; it's the Philippines.)

Job security is dead. My father worked for one company his whole working life. Recruiters are amazed that I worked for one company for over ten years, and I was recently shocked to realize that, with three years' experience, I've been here longer than most of my co-workers.

I took a pay cut to come here, and I'm wondering if I'll need to take another to be competitive. The expectation of higher salaries as you get older, which so far has covered up the stagnation of the middle class, is no longer to be counted on.
I am obviously in a different field from Mr. Zompist, but I have to say his observations square with my own. I am at an ok job, but a good part of my decision to stay here is because I have little confidence in my ability to find anything else (not to mention the beating my stocks are taking). Economic conditions are shakey. I hope things pick up, but we'll have to see.

How many of you feel like the economy is doing all that it could for you?

Say why does everything suck?

If you want to understand the Bush Economy, you need to read Paul Krugman. He's smart, he knows his stuff, and he knows how to explain it.

I quoted him in the last post, but he has another brilliant article this very day detailing the excuses and spins the Bush Adminsitration and their buddies are using to derail speculation that maybe President Bush's economic policies have something to do with the economic down turn.

"Officials often claim, falsely, that the 2001 recession began under Bill Clinton, or at least that it was somehow his fault. But even if you attribute the eight-month recession that began in March 2001 to Mr. Clinton - a very dubious proposition - job loss during the recession wasn't exceptionally severe. The reason the employment picture looks so bad now is the unprecedented weakness of job growth in the subsequent recovery.

Nor is it plausible to continue attributing poor economic performance to terrorism, three years after 9/11. Bear in mind that in the 2002 Economic Report of the President, the administration's own economists predicted full recovery by 2004, with payroll employment rising to 138 million, 7 million more than the actual number.
"

The whole article is entertaining, and of course, relevant to our discussion.

Who's Loaning Us Money?

Where does the money to pay for President Bush's Deficits come from? I mean a deficit implies that the United States is borrowing money to make up the difference between national expenditures and national revenues, doesn't it? So who's loaning us money?

Well some of the money is coming from foreign nations; possibly this part of our debt is no problem. I mean if, say, Japan wants to call in the money we owe them, we'll just beat the crap out of them. Maybe. But, unfortunately, a lot of that money has been loaned by ordinary American's like you and me (as well as corporations and local governments and so on and so forth). Everytime you buy a Treasury Note you are, in effect, loaning the Government money. A lot of people have T-Bills in their portfolio.

Here's Paul Krugman's sobering analysis of the long term effects of President Bush's deficits (which I previously quoted).
Here's one way to look at the situation: Although you wouldn't know it from the rhetoric, federal taxes are already historically low as a share of G.D.P. Once the new round of cuts takes effect, federal taxes will be lower than their average during the Eisenhower administration. How, then, can the government pay for Medicare and Medicaid which didn't exist in the 1950's and Social Security, which will become far more expensive as the population ages? (Defense spending has fallen compared with the economy, but not that much, and it's on the rise again.)

The answer is that it can't. The government can borrow to make up the difference as long as investors remain in denial, unable to believe that the world's only superpower is turning into a banana republic. But at some point bond markets will balk they won't lend money to a government, even that of the United States, if that government's debt is growing faster than its revenues and there is no plausible story about how the budget will eventually come under control.

At that point, either taxes will go up again, or programs that have become fundamental to the American way of life will be gutted. We can be sure that the right will do whatever it takes to preserve the Bush tax cuts right now the administration is even skimping on homeland security to save a few dollars here and there. But balancing the books without tax increases will require deep cuts where the money is: that is, in Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security.

The pain of these benefit cuts will fall on the middle class and the poor, while the tax cuts overwhelmingly favor the rich. For example, the tax cut passed last week will raise the after-tax income of most people by less than 1 percent not nearly enough to compensate them for the loss of benefits. But people with incomes over $1 million per year will, on average, see their after-tax income rise 4.4 percent.
Something to consider. But of course, the working poor, those "Lucky Duckies" have life a little too easy anyway.

Through the Past Darkly

Let's go over how we got here. Much of this information comes from "It's Still the Economy, Stupid : George W. Bush, The GOP's CEO", by Paul Begala.

President Reagan had a fairly strong economy, the growth of which was to a great extent based on his prodigious defense spending. President Reagan's policies, however, also increased the deficit by an enormous amount, and in President George H. W. Bush's presidency the bill came due.

Then we had the Clinton Years. It's hard not to notice that the economy seemed very strong in the Clinton Years. Why?

Well there are a few explanations. One is that President Reagan's policies and tax cuts ended up causing the expansion in the nineties. This isn't very logical as the key element of President Reagan's economic strategy, tax cuts, had since seen several tax increases. One under President Reagan, one under President Bush and another under President Clinton. If Tax Raises were the economic poison they are supposed to be, how did we get the go-go nineties?

Another clue suggesting that Clintonomics was a rejection to Reagonomics was how Republicans reacted to his proposals. Remember that line above about tax increases being poison? Well check out this commentary by Rep. John Kasich (R-OH).

"It's like a snakebite. The venom is going to be injected into the body of this economy; in our judgment it's going to spread throughout the body and it's going to begin to kill the jobs that American's have."

Of course the history of the 1990's does not exactly support this analysis. Another possible explanation is to explain it all in relation to the Tech Bubble and the admittedly brilliant work of Alan Greenspan during the 1990s. Alan Greenspan, however, felt inclined to share a little of his credit.

"My colleagues and I have been very appreciative of your [president Clinton's] support of the Fed over the years, and your commitment to fiscal discipline, which . . . has been instrumental in achieving what in a few weeks . . . will be the longest economic expansion in the nation's history."

The Tech Bubble certainly was problematic; although two salient facts should be noted. Number one the technology sector wasn't the entire economy. Number two, President Clinton reduction of the deficit helped create the credit necessary to fund the growth in the technology sector (and in other sectors as well).

President Bush's economic policies haven't exactly produced the kind of rampaging economy you'd expect. Part of that is September 11th, of course, which he can hardly be blamed for. But of course President Bush also gets credit for emptying out the surplus and taking us back to deficits in record time.

And along with tax cuts for the wealthy, President Bush has chipped away at all sorts of programs designed to help the working poor and the middle class. In effect, the poor face a tax increase due to cutbacks in services and benefits that the government provides. Their jobs are less safe, they have less access to healthcare, schools for their kids aren't as good, the food they eat is less screened, and the air they breath is less healthy.

Bush Bashing Day 2 : The Domestic Front

In order to understand President Bush's domestic policy it's helpful to know this simple truism.

Conservatives believe that people making, say, $15,000 or $20,000 have life a little too easy. Conservatives also believe that people making say $120,000 or $150,000 have life a little too hard (and don't get them started on the suffering of people making over $500,000).

That's not how I look at it personally (frankly my heart goes out to anybody trying to raise as family on $15,000 a year), but it does explain a lot of President Bush's economic policy.

Don't get me wrong, I don't want to make life harder on the people making over $120,000 a year. I have nothing against them, and in fact applaud their accomplishments. I am a proud capitalist. But I think that a Democratic government should focus on protecting and helping those who don't have a lot. The wealthy can, more or less, take care of themselves (as we saw in our little review of President Bush's life story yesterday).

That sad thing is that a single minded focus on making life easier for the wealthy and harder for the working poor is, in the long run, not a solid way to build a society. What's that old line about a chain being only as strong as it's weakest links? President Bush's economic policies are building an America with a few really nice looking links and a lot of busted ones.

Monday, August 09, 2004

Some Quotes from President Bush

I mentioned the Bushisms earlier (twice, if memory serves), but this isn't that. These are other quotes that I think are worth considering in light of what we've discussed today. I'm not going to provide my own commentary, as I think you can draw your own conclusions.

"A dictatorship would be a heck of a lot easier, there's no question about it." Quoted by Richard S Dunham, Washington Watch, "A Gentleman's 'C' for W," Business Week Online, 7-30-01

"I'm the commander - see, I don't need to explain - I do not need to explain why I say things. That's the interesting thing about being the president. Maybe somebody needs to explain to me why they say something, but I don't feel like I owe anybody an explanation." - Quoted by Bob Woodward.

Q. In the last campaign, you were asked a question about the biggest mistake you'd made in your life, and you used to like to joke that it was trading Sammy Sosa. You've looked back before 9/11 for what mistakes might have been made. After 9/11, what would your biggest mistake be, would you say, and what lessons have you learned from it?

THE PRESIDENT: I wish you would have given me this written question ahead of time, so I could plan for it. (Laughter.) John, I'm sure historians will look back and say, gosh, he could have done it better this way, or that way. You know, I just -- I'm sure something will pop into my head here in the midst of this press conference, with all the pressure of trying to come up with an answer, but it hadn't yet.

. . . I hope I -- I don't want to sound like I've made no mistakes. I'm confident I have. I just haven't -- you just put me under the spot here, and maybe I'm not as quick on my feet as I should be in coming up with one.

President Addresses the Nation in Prime Time Press Conference

I appreciate the chance to -- I deal with my press corps on a regular basis. It's a beneficial -- it's a mutual beneficial society. See, I need them to get the message out, and they need me to be a messenger. And we're working hard to make sure that our relationship is cordial and professional." President Bush, President's Remarks to the Unity Journalists of Color Convention
George W. Bush: There's Adam Clymer, major-league asshole from the New York Times.
Dick Cheney: Oh, yeah, he is, big-time.
Exchange overheard during a Labor Day campaign rally at a high school in Naperville, Il.
"I regret that it [the comment noted directly above] made it to the public airwaves. I was making a comment to Vice President Cheney, I didn't obviously realize the mikes were gonna pick it up. I regret that everybody heard what I said." - President George W. Bush

Enjoy! Check back in tomorrow when we will run through President Bush's economic plans.

The Texas Air National Guard

I'm not going to belabor this issue. President Bush chose to join the Texas Air National Guard as way to avoid the war in Vietnam. It's possible that a family friend interceded in favor of President Bush's father (also a President Bush, although of course this was before even that), and that President Bush 43 didn't make the call himself.

But there is still a contrast between a man, Senator Kerry, who chooses to join the Navy and requests an assignment on a Swift Boat Patrol (one of the more dangerous jobs in the Navy in Vietnam) and President Bush who joined what Molly Ivin's describes (in Shrub the short but happy political life of George W. Bush) as "a safe haven in Texas Guard Units. The unit that accepted Bush included the son of former Texas senator Lloyd Bentsen, the son of former Texas governor John Connally, and enough rich young men to field a polo league. It also included a few black guardsman - several members of the Dallas Cowboy's football team."

Even if you cut out all the stuff about Senator Kerry's medals and whether or not he earned them, there is still a contrast.

I don't know if President Bush failed to attend to his duties in 1972. I suspect he did; I've not seen any convincing information to suggest that he didn't. And you'd think if such information existed, President Bush would be in a hurry to display it.

And that's all I have to say about that period in President Bush's life.

President Bush's Demons

Take this for what it's worth.

This is from a book review of Bush on the Couch: Inside the Mind of the President by Justin Frank. I don't buy everything I read in this article, but this section seems pretty plausible to me.
While the conventional wisdom might suggest that Bush fears being unmasked as a dolt, Frank believes that Bush's rigidity -- also manifest in his ironclad daily routine -- protects him from inadvertently revealing the darker emotions he's never come to terms with. In addition to the fear of not living up to his father's example, there's the anger at being expected to, and the fear of the destructive power of that anger should it ever be unleashed. The primitive moral vision Bush subscribes to -- in which the world is divided into the good, "freedom-loving" people of America and "evildoers" like Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein -- is another inflexible schema that imposes order on the internal chaos that's always threatening to rise up and swamp him. Maintaining such control takes a considerable amount of energy, according to Frank, which may be one reason why Bush needs so much sleep and finds it so hard to concentrate.

Bush's born-again Christianity, an anomaly in his patrician East Coast clan, serves a similar function. For Bush, faith is less about the joyful worship of God in a community of believers (as Frank points out, he seldom attends church) than it is about forcing a structure on both the world and his own life without the risks inherent in a genuine attempt to understand either one. As Frank shrewdly observes, unlike your garden variety AA member, the born-again Christian need not ever examine his pre-conversion past; it can be partitioned off and dispensed with as irrelevant, which is just what Bush has done. The rowdy George W. who drank too much and, when soused, actually owned up to his wrath at his father and his own lot in life, now no longer exists.
But wait, I hear you saying. How can President Bush both learn that he is pretty well invulnerable to failure and also learn that he has a terrible dark side that must be kept under control? It's a matter of transference, in my opinion. When he fails, such failings are projected onto others. It's not that the policy in Iraq is struggling or even failing; the real problem is that the media is reporting such struggles or failings.

But like I said, take it for what it's worth. Here is another review of Mr. Frank's work, one from the Guardian UK.

Why Bushisms Matter Part 2

This is from a book called "Fraud: The Strategy Behind the Bush Lies and Why the Media Didn't Tell You." The book was excerpted at Salon, and this is a good quote that goes back to how Bushisms distinguish between President Bush and Senator Kerry (and the inherent phoniness in the distinction).

"The conservative media apparatus is an integrated system in which stories circulate between talk radio, conservative magazines and newspapers and the Fox News Channel, generating momentum and pushing their way into more mainstream news outlets. The most enthusiastic goal of this media machine is locating and publicizing foolish things said by liberals, no matter how obscure or inconsequential the speaker may be, to inspire mainstream contempt for liberals. The idea that the words of some random professor or student are more important than the actions of the country's leaders may be farcical, but by giving endless attention to these alleged outrages, conservatives sustain the image of liberals as powerful and elitist and conservatives as persecuted and victimized. Were they so inclined, liberals could no doubt find conservative citizens who say stupid things too. But no one is paying them to undertake the search.

When ordinary people, told endlessly to be suspicious if not contemptuous of those with too much education, hear people snicker at George W. Bush's inability to put together a grammatical sentence, they sympathize. Far from being damaging, jokes about the president's intelligence and ineloquence serve to distract from his status within the aristocracy, providing evidence that Bush is not one of the elite, indeed is scorned by them. Presidential elections are won and lost over a variety of factors, but which candidate seems the smartest is not one of them. When liberals make jokes about the bizarre tangle of words that sometimes emerges from Bush's mouth, he is only too pleased since it serves the end of separating him from the elite.
"

Incidently, in spell checking this, the spell checker didn't like the word Bushisms. The suggested replacement word; "Bushwhaking." That's not very signicant, but it is, in some small way, gratifying.

Resentment

A quick note. I've been harping on all of the "good luck" President Bush has had in his life, and I might come off a little resentful. I suppose on some level I do resent President Bush's luck and his wealth. I've had a good life; but it is occasionally a little depressing to consider the many nice things that wealthy people have that I am unlikely to ever experience. But that's not really their fault, nor is it President Bush's fault that he was born into a life where his failures don't matter.

My main point is to suggest that you consider what effect learning that one's failures don't matter has on a person. How does that affect your perception of the world around you?

Something to think about.

Bushisms - Why they Matter

"I'm also honored to be here with the speaker of the House-just happens to be from the state of Illinois. I'd like to describe the speaker as a trustworthy man. He's the kind of fellow who says when he gives you his word he means it. Sometimes that doesn't happen all the time in the political process."-Chicago, March 6, 2001

Why do Bushisms matter?

Well, why are people inarticulate? Well there are a couple of reasons. One is that they aren't totally familiar with English. Another is that they lacked the opportunity to get a good education. There is no shame in either of these reasons. But neither, of course, applies to President Bush.

"I know something about being a government. And you've got a good one."-Stumping for Gov. Mike Huckabee, Bentonville, Ark., Nov. 4, 2002

He presumably learned English from his fellow Bush's and went to school at Andover and Yale and Harvard. Even in these days of grade inflation, one has to assume that people can learn to speak well if they want to. But that wasn't, apparently, high on Bush's priorities.

"Security is the essential roadblock to achieving the road map to peace."-Washington, D.C., July 25, 2003

One wonders what would happen to a young black man, who lacked President Bush's connections, in Midland Texas (or anywhere else in the nation) who talked as inarticulately as President Bush. I suppose such a young man, were he talented and ambitious enough to try and get a good job, would be lectured endlessly about how important it is to present yourself. He'd be told that it is essential in our society to communicate clearly and to act a certain way. But, of course, nobody gave President Bush that lecture, and if they did, it apparently had no effect (either on his success or his speaking ability.

"I understand small business growth. I was one."-New York Daily News, Feb. 19, 2000

Of course we might also note President Bush and Senator Kerry came from remarkably similar backgrounds. They both grew up in privileged New England families and they both attended the finest schools. President Bush sounds like a Texan, Senator Kerry sounds like a New Englander.

President Bush sounds like a natural normal joe; Senator Kerry sounds like an educated New England Senator.

And, of course the one that we are asked to believe is a big phony is Senator Kerry.

She Don't Lie, She Don't Lie, She Don't Lie

Incidently, I am relaxing a bit my rule about always typing President Bush, rather than just Bush. I'll continue to do my best, because I still have respect for the office, but if I miss a few, I'm not going to shed any tears.

For those who don't know President Bush has been accused of abusing Cocaine in his "lost years." Here's a This Modern World Cartoon that gives the salient details as to why we might suspect that this is true.

I'm not very interested in the moral issue of whether or not President Bush did Drugs. What matters to me is that, if this did happen, and as nothing has been conclusively proven, than it is another example of him getting into a bad situation, and that situation having little to no long term consequences.

Edited to add; for those who want additional info on Mr. Tomorrow's charges, here's a story from the 2000 election.

Bush's Education

This also comes from the article by Joan Walsh, referenced below.

Bush atteneded Yale in the 1960's, at a time when there were numerous protests. His comment on those who attended Yale, as related by one of his biographers is as follows:

"These are the ones who felt so guilty that they had been given so many blessings in life -- like an Andover or a Yale education -- that they felt they should overcompensate by trying to give everyone else in life the same thing."

An interesting comment from someone who would make education a focus of his Presidency and Governorship later in life.

Business Acumen

It goes without saying that President Bush's business career was not very inspiring. He worked for a variety of businesses each of which largely failed. And yet, for President Bush, failure was never the end. There was always someone there to pick him up, dust him off, and give him tons of money. Frankly, they were probably there to catch him before he even landed.

And why?

Well it wasn't because of his business acumen. It was strictly because of his connections. His only success in business was that other people liked using him to get help from his father.

To quote Salon's Joan Walsh, in a review of several biographies of President Bush, "Then came the putative "entrepreneurial" years, when Bush returned to his dad's Midland, Texas, oil roots and got family and friends to help him fail ever upward. Eventually he turned his investment in the aptly named, money-losing Arbusto Energy into a million-dollar stake in a much bigger firm and ponied up about $600,000 for a tiny share of the Texas Rangers baseball team, which was worth almost $15 million when he sold it last year. (To be fair, maybe the books explain more than I've given them credit for. Because if your life worked out this dang well, you might wanna run for president, too.)"

Yep. That's not of course what life teaches most of us. Most of us learn, sooner or later, that you have to pay for your mistakes and so you are better off not making any, if you can avoid it. I mean over and over again, we are going to see that if President Bush had to live the same kind of life you and I live, well, he sure wouldn't be president.

Like Ms. Walsh says, "if your life worked out this dang well, you might wanna run for president, too."

A Brief History of President Bush

I am tryin to play this particular post straight, just so you know.

Here's the official bio, from the White House.

President Bush was born on July 6, 1946, in New Haven, Connecticut, and he grew up in Midland and Houston, Texas. He received a bachelor's degree from Yale University in 1968, then served as an F-102 fighter pilot in the Texas Air National Guard. President Bush received a Master of Business Administration from Harvard Business School in 1975. After graduating, he moved back to Midland and began a career in the energy business. After working on his father's successful 1988 presidential campaign, he assembled the group of partners that purchased the Texas Rangers baseball franchise in 1989.

He served as managing general partner of the Texas Rangers until he was elected Governor on November 8, 1994, with 53.5 percent of the vote. He became the first Governor in Texas history to be elected to consecutive four-year terms when he was re-elected on November 3, 1998, with 68.6 percent of the vote.
The devil, as they say, is in the details.

Hmmm. Pretty sketchy details on his "career in the energy business." But we'll get back to that.

The Bio also neglects to note that he went to the Phillips Academy, Andover, Massachusetts. That's quite a distance from Texas. And of course we'll be returning to his education in a bit as well.

Laying My Cards on the Table - President Bush's Character

It's always tricky deciding whether to put the argument before the evidence or the evidence before the argument. If you but the argument first, particularly in a case like this where I'll build it over a number of posts, it will sound like a bit over the top. On the other hand if I provide the evidence first, some of it will sound nick-picky and some of it will sound mean spirited, and you don't really know how to put it all together.

In this case, however, I think the danger of you tuning my evidence out because of my argument is the lesser of two evils. It's not like you don't know that this argument is going to be Bush Bashing.

At any rate, here is my assessment of President Bush's Character. Life has taught him that his mistakes don't matter; reality protects him from the consequences of his errors. He has also become very certain of his positions and his ideas; to the point where other points of view are largely irrelevant. To me this is a dangerous combination.

But wait, you ask, how could come to such a nutty conclusion? Read on and find out. Well, read the posts I am posting after this post but which will appear closer to the top of the page.

Three Days of Bush Bashing

Yep. I am out of town Thursday and Friday or this would be longer, but as it is we have three days of Bashing Bush ahead of it.

But before the merriment starts let's be clear on what I mean by Bush Bashing. I mean criticizing the President. To Bash Bush is to criticize him. You might think that there is some necessary threshold of criticism one needs to reach before it really becomes Bush Bashing; but you'd be wrong. Any criticism of President Bush no matter how minor is Bashing Bush.

Also for the benefit of those who have not been following American Political Discourse, I am also a Bush Hater. A Bush Hater, this year, is someone who does not want President Bush to win reelection. In other years it was someone who did not agree with President Bush's agenda.

It might seem like these terms are somewhat weighted against Democrats; as who wants to be described as a Basher or a Hater? But that is the dialogue in America. One nice thing about living in America as a Liberal is that we, apparently, completely control the discourse in America. Conservatives complain all the time about our stranglehold on the media, and this is just one more evidence of it. I am sure if Republicans controlled the national discourse, they would apply much gentler term those who disagree with the President.

But now that we have our terms clarified, allow me to repeat that you have three days of Bush Bashing ahead of you. On the first day I will cover President Bush's character. On the second day I will discuss his domestic agenda and on the third day I will cover his foreign policy accomplishments.

Some of you, no doubt, are already upset at the partisan tone I'm taking. That's fine; and I'll understand if you decided to check out for a few days. But there is a very important election coming up. And there are few actions you might take more partisan than voting. I hope you are all going to do that, and I want to present information and analysis on President Bush to make your decision easier in November.

Sunday, August 08, 2004

Some Additional Quotes

"If you are a proud democrat you are an extreme leftist." - Rush Limbaugh

"Even fanatical Muslim terrorists don't hate America like liberals do." - Ann Coulter

"I tell people, don't kill all the liberals. Leave enough around so we can have two on every campus - living fossils - so we will never forget what these people stood for." - Rush Limbaugh

"We're going to keep on building the party [the Texas G.O.P.] until we're hunting Democrats with dogs." - Phil Gramm

"Don't do it because the Republicans represent a great alternative - because they don't. Do it because the Democrats - far to many of them - are evil, pure and simple." - Joseph Farah

New Quote

Here you go. I'll update the Quotes page next week, for a change.