Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Bush Administration Paradox Explained

Published on Monday, September 19, 2005 by the San Francisco Chronicle
Bush Administration Paradox Explained
by Robert Reich

The White House's strategy to make John Roberts the next chief justice has been the very model of meticulous planning, by contrast to its utter clueless-ness in dealing with Katrina. No White House in modern history has been as adept at politics and as ham-fisted at governing. Why?

With politics, the Bush administration has shown remarkable discipline -- squelching leaks and keeping Cabinet members on message, reaching down into the bureaucracy to bend analyses in directions that supports what it wants to do, imposing its will on congressional leaders and even making a political imprint on state legislatures. No recent president has got re-elected with controlling majorities in both houses of Congress, or been as successful in repositioning the national debate around his ideological view of the world.

With governing, it's been almost criminally incompetent -- failing to act on clear predictions of a terrorist attack like 9/11 or a natural disaster like Katrina, botching intelligence over Saddam Hussein's supposed weapons of mass destruction, failing to secure order after invading Iraq, allowing prisoners of war to be tortured, losing complete control over the federal budget, creating a bizarre Medicare drug benefit from which the elderly are now fleeing, barely responding to the wave of corporate lootings and running the Federal Emergency Management Agency into the ground. Not since the hapless administration of Warren G. Harding has there been one as stunningly inept as this one.

The easy answer to the paradox is that Bush cares about winning elections and putting his ideological stamp on the nation, but doesn't give a hoot about governing the place. But that's no explanation because the two are so obviously connected. An administration can't impose a lasting stamp without being managed well, and a president's party can't keep winning elections if the public thinks it's composed of bumbling idiots.

The real answer is that the same discipline and organization that's made the White House into a hugely effective political machine has hobbled its capacity to govern. Blocking data from lower-level political appointees and civil servants that's inconsistent with what it wants to do or sheds doubt on its wisdom, for example, may be effective politics, in the short term. It keeps the media and the opposition party at bay.

But the same squelching of troublesome information prevents top policy makers from ever getting the data they need. Operatives in the CIA suspected Hussein didn't have weapons of mass destruction and personnel at the Department of State knew the plan to invade Iraq was seriously flawed, but such judgments were suppressed by a White House that made perfectly clear what it wanted and didn't want to hear. Career professionals at the CIA and the Department of State are now wary of sharing what they know with appointed officials, as are scientists and experts all over the federal government.

Similarly, a White House whose Cabinet officers all deliver the same, positive lines can be a formidable message machine. But this same discipline also discourages internal dissent, for the simple reason that in Washington nothing stays completely private. The predictable result is that Bush officials have become yes-men incapable of sounding alarms. The price of dissent is high. Soon after Glenn Hubbard, then chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors, warned that the cost of the Iraqi war would be in the range of $200 billion -- almost exactly what it's cost so far -- he was fired. After Paul O'Neill, his Secretary of the Treasury, worried out loud that federal budget deficits didn't seem to matter any longer -- a prescient concern -- he was fired, too. Can it be any wonder why this president doesn't seem to get it?

Political discipline is also honed when the White House staffs agencies with people loyal to the president, along with loyalists' friends. Joe Allbaugh worked as W's chief of staff when he was Texas governor and his 2000 campaign manager, so it seemed perfectly natural to put Allbaugh's college buddy, Michael Brown, in charge of FEMA even though "Brownie" had no previous experience in disaster management. FEMA's acting deputy director and its acting deputy chief of staff had no relevant experience, either; both had been advance men in the White House. Given this, no one should be surprised that FEMA so badly bungled Katrina. Brownie is gone now, but the administration is still crawling with cronies who know their politics, but don't have a clue what they're supposed to manage.

Politics first, competence last: That's the Bush administration all over. Karl Rove, Bush's brain and deputy chief of staff, is in charge of the political juggernaut that's substituted for effective governance. Presumably, he's now at work on a plan to burnish the image of Republicans as managers of the public's business so they don't the hell beaten out of them in the mid-terms a year from now. But the harder Rove works at spinning what this White House has accomplished, the more likely it is that Americans will see that what it's accomplished is basically spin.

Robert B. Reich was U.S. Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration, and co-founder of the American Prospect magazine, from whose October issue this is adapted.

Monday, July 25, 2005

What Bush Doesn't Know

The last paragraph in this article says it all. A missed opportunity to stop the insanity, and work with the rest of the world. We should have been totally united in our response. Instead, we played right into the hands of those who want to harm us. Bush and Company blew it!

July 25, 2005
What Bush Doesn't Know

I remember the arrogance that accompanied the "shock and awe" bombing campaign that kicked off the war in Iraq more than two years ago. The war was supposed to be quick and easy, a cakewalk. The enemy, we were told, would fold like a dinner napkin. And then, in the neoconservative fantasies of some of the crazier folks in the Bush crowd, the military would gear up for an invasion of Iran.

In one of the great deceptions in the history of American government, President Bush insisted to a nation traumatized by the Sept. 11 attacks that the invasion of Iraq was crucial to the success of the so-called war on terror.

"Some have argued that confronting the threat from Iraq could detract from the war against terror," said Mr. Bush in a speech in the fall of 2002 that was designed to drum up support for the invasion. "To the contrary, confronting the threat posed by Iraq is crucial to winning the war on terror."

In the speech, delivered in Cincinnati, Mr. Bush said of Iraq: "It possesses and produces chemical and biological weapons. It is seeking nuclear weapons."

I've always urged politicians to be careful what they wish for. The president got the war he wanted so badly. But he never understood an essential fact that Georges Clemenceau learned nearly a century ago - that "it is easier to make war than to make peace."

So where are we, now that the real world has intervened? The military is spinning its wheels in the tragic and expensive quagmire of Iraq and there is no end to the conflict in sight. A front-page story in The Times on Sunday said the insurgents "just keep getting stronger and stronger."

As for the fight against terror, the news runs the gamut from bad to horrible. The Red Sea resort of Sharm el Sheik in Egypt was traumatized by a series of early-morning terrorist blasts on Saturday. London is trembling from the terror attacks on its public transportation system that have claimed dozens of lives.

Here in New York, where the police have begun random searches of the backpacks and packages of subway riders, there is an odd feeling of resignation mixed with periodic bouts of dread, as transit riders struggle with the belief that some kind of attack is bound to happen here.

Interviews over the past few days have shown that subway riders in New York almost instinctively understand what the president does not - that the war in Iraq is not making us safer here at home.

"No, in fact I think it makes us less safe here," said Edmond Lee, a salesman who lives on Manhattan's Upper West Side. "We went over there with no real plan. No real thinking about what we'd be able to do."

He said he was concerned that "what happened in the London Underground might happen here."

Memories of the destruction of the World Trade Center are still etched, as if with acid, in the minds of New Yorkers. Very few people are dovish when it comes to the war on terror. But Mr. Bush's war in Iraq is another matter.

"Our soldiers being over there make it worse here," said Michael Springfield, a 32-year-old engineer from Brooklyn.

One of the people encountered in the subway was Andy Dommen, a musician from Germany who was pushing a shopping cart filled with luggage. He made the fundamental distinction between Iraq and Al Qaeda and said the war in Iraq was a distraction that "was taking the public eye off" other important problems, namely the fight against terror.

"Messing up other countries," said Mr. Dommen, "doesn't make the world or America safer."

There is still no indication that the Bush administration recognizes the utter folly of its war in Iraq, which has been like a constant spray of gasoline on the fire of global terrorism. What was required in the aftermath of Sept. 11 was an intense, laserlike focus by America and its allies on Al Qaeda-type terrorism.

Instead, the Bush crowd saw its long dreamed of opportunity to impose its will on Iraq, which had nothing to do with the great tragedy of Sept. 11. Many thousands have paid a fearful price for that bit of ideological madness.

E-mail: bobherb@nytimes.com

Sunday, July 24, 2005

The Brains....Turd Blossom

Here's a short biography of the man Bush calls "Turd Blossom" (an appropriate nickname). He helped in the right-wing take over of both the Presidency, and Congress. He is currently aiding in trying to take over the
Judicial branch of government. It is apparent that his main objective is to win at any cost.

The brains

He masterminded George Bush's transformation from boozing brat to national leader, and has been called the most powerful adviser in the White House. Now Karl Rove is in charge of the $150m campaign to re-elect Bush. Who is the man the president calls his 'boy genius'? By Julian Borger

Julian Borger
Tuesday March 9, 2004


In the autumn election season of 1970, a cherubic, bespectacled teenager turned up at the Chicago campaign headquarters of Alan Dixon, a Democrat running for state treasurer in Illinois. No one paid the newcomer much attention when he arrived, or when he left soon afterwards. Nor did anyone in the office make the connection between the mystery volunteer and 1,000 invitations on campaign stationery that began circulating in Chicago's red-light district and soup kitchens, promising "free beer, free food, girls and a good time for nothing" for all-comers at Dixon's headquarters.

As political dirty tricks go, it was minor league. Hundreds of the city's heavy drinkers and homeless turned up at a smart Dixon reception looking for free booze. Dixon was embarrassed but the plot failed to stop his momentum: he was elected state treasurer and went on to become a senator. But the teenager who stole his letterheads, Karl Rove, has gone even further.

Over the past week, Rove, now aged 53, has been in his White House office overseeing George Bush's $150m re-election strategy. The Bush camp was content to keep its powder dry while the Democrats were selecting their candidate, but now that John Kerry has been officially chosen, Republican campaigning proper has begun.

Steering it, and constantly at Bush's shoulder, is the president's "political adviser", Rove. The nerdy political brawler with only a secondary school education is now the man the president likes to call his "boy genius" - a testament to Rove's role in orchestrating Bush's rise from a feckless, hard-drinking politician's brat to Texas governor to president in barely a decade. And unlike other electoral svengalis who have gone before him, Rove has carried his power intact from the campaign bus to the White House.

"I think it's an enormous position of power, and it's hard to overstate. I think he's unique in the modern presidency," says Lou Dubose, a Texan journalist and Rove biographer. Rove's office is tight-lipped about the extent of his duties, but the few un-vetted memoirs to have escaped from this highly disciplined administration have all portrayed him as the single most powerful figure in it, with the (possible) exceptions of the president and vice-president.

"Karl is enormously powerful, maybe the single most powerful person in the modern, post-Hoover era ever to occupy a political adviser post near the Oval Office," John DiIulio, a former presidential adviser, wrote in a notoriously frank email to a journalist from Esquire magazine, after resigning in 2001. "Little happens on any issue without Karl's OK, and often he supplies such policy substance as the administration puts out."

Earlier this year, for instance, Paul O'Neill, Bush's former treasury secretary, gave an account of a pivotal cabinet meeting in late 2002 to discuss a second round of deep tax cuts, at which the president apparently had second thoughts about focusing so much of the benefits on the wealthy. "Didn't we already give them a break at the top?" Bush asks, according to O'Neill's account. Rove brings the president back in line, urging him to "stick to principle". Rove won the day, and O'Neill was forced out of the cabinet.

By his own account, Rove's sights are set even further into the future than Bush's re-election. He has spoken about strategic shifts of power that happen every so often in American history. The precedent he often refers to was set over a century ago by William McKinley, another Republican with brilliant advisers, who narrowly defeated a populist Democrat (William Jennings Bryan) in 1896 and established a Republican hegemony that lasted more than three decades.

The Republicans now control the presidency, the senate, and the house of representatives. Rove's task now is to consolidate that dominance of the White House and Capitol Hill and then use it to recast the Washington's third source of power, the supreme court, from its current cautious conservatism to a more red-blooded Republicanism.

To achieve that, Rove has to win the November elections for the Republicans. They have all the advantages of incumbency, but there is disillusion in the air over unemployment and the Iraq war, and a newly united Democratic party behind Kerry is making inroads in the polls. On the other hand, the Republicans have Rove, to whom no other campaign strategist comes close.

Rove prepared for the harder edges of US politics by surviving his youth. Born on Christmas Day 1950 in Denver, Colorado, he grew up in or near the Rockies, where his father worked as a geologist. On his 19th birthday, his father walked out on him. Soon afterwards, he found out that he was not his father after all, the news dropped into a dinner-table conversation by his aunt and uncle. Twelve years later, alone in Reno, his mother committed suicide.

At high school in Utah, Rove was known as a nerd and a motor-mouth, unpopular but irrepressibly opinionated. While his peers were fixated on girls he became obsessed with school politics, campaigning for student positions in a precocious jacket and tie. Although his parents were apolitical, he was a vocal Nixon supporter from the age of nine.

Like Dick Cheney, he avoided the Vietnam draft with a college deferment, but gave up his education to work on Republican campaigns, and never got a degree. He launched his political career by wresting control of the College Republicans, a radical group in the Nixon era. It was an unpleasant business. In an interesting precursor to the Florida battle 17 years later, Rove took on his opponent, Robert Edgeworth, principally on procedural grounds - challenging the credentials of every single Edgeworth delegate to the1973 College Republican convention and putting forward a rival delegate.

The aggressive tactics won the 22-year-old Rove a walk-on role in the Watergate saga that was consuming the nation. A report was published in the Washington Post on August 10, 1973, titled "[Republican party] Probes Official as Teacher of Tricks", gave an account, based on tape recordings, of how Rove and a colleague had been touring the country giving young Republicans political combat training, in which they recalled their feats of derring-do, such as Rove's Chicago heist at the Dixon headquarters.

At the time, Rove claimed the tape had been doctored to exclude a warning to the audience not to try to emulate any of his past misdeeds. Others present simply remember a caution not to get caught. The publicity forced the intervention of the Republican National Committee and its chairman, a former Texas congressman clinging on to his political career: George Herbert Walker Bush. After considering the case, Bush Sr took action. He drove Edgeworth out of the party on suspicion of having leaked the tapes, and hired Rove, bringing him to Washington.

The incident marked the genesis of the Rove-Bush axis and it was in Washington that Rove met the younger Bush. He fell, politically speaking, in love. "Huge amounts of charisma, swagger, cowboy boots, flight jacket, wonderful smile, just charisma - you know, wow," Rove recalled years later. In 1977, Rove was sent to Texas, in theory to run a political action committee, but according to one Texan political consultant who knew him at the time, "It was really to baby-sit Bush back when Bush was drinking".

While doing that, Rove discovered his true calling. He set up a "direct mail" operation, Rove + Company [sic], pinpointing potential Republican voters and sending them fundraising or voter registration letters written specifically to appeal to the target audience.

At this time, he married Valerie Wainright, a wealthy Houston woman from the Bush social circle, but the marriage could not withstand his consuming preoccupation with politics.(He married his second wife, Darby, in 1986.)

Rove was in Texas at a turning point in its political history. The Democrats' hegemony, inherited from the civil war era, was crumbling, as the party moved to the left and Republican northerners moved into the state's city suburbs. Election by election, post by post, the Republicans began to take over the state, and Rove was there to help them.

The 1986 governor's race was a prime example. The contest between Rove's Republican client, Bill Clements, and the Democratic incumbent, Mark White, was neck and neck, when Rove announced he had found an electronic listening device in his office, and cried foul. The furore swung the election to Clements and to this day Texan Democrats are convinced Rove concocted the whole episode.

Eight years later, another Democrat, Anne Richards, occupied the governor's mansion, but Rove was promoting another Republican candidate, George W Bush. Governor Richards' advisers laughed openly at the challenge, but they were in for a shock. "We did not believe that Bush would be as disciplined as he was. He was extremely disciplined," recalls George Shipley, who was then Richards' campaign adviser. "Karl gave him 10 index cards and said, 'This is what you are going to say. Don't confuse yourself with the issues.' It's the model for the presidency."

In its last days, the 1994 campaign also turned nasty. Texan voters began receiving calls from "pollsters" asking questions such as: "Would you be more or less likely to vote for Governor Richards if you knew her staff is dominated by lesbians?" In the business, it is called "push-polling" and Shipley has no doubt who was behind it."Rove has used this kind of dirty tricks in every campaign he's ever run."

Only circumstantial evidence links Rove to the push-polling. In fact, his fingerprints have not been found on any dirty tricks since his College Republican days. Ray Sullivan, a political consultant who worked for Rove on a string of campaigns, argues that Rove is the target of "revisionist history" that portrays every low blow in every campaign to his orchestration. "He can be tough," Sullivan says, but insists he was always fair. "Politics in Texas is a contact sport. It is rough and tumble but those who cut corners and don't back up claims with facts don't last very long and Karl has lasted longer than anyone."

Last year, however, Rove's taste for personal politics entangled him in an extraordinary spy scandal. He is reported to have made calls to Washington journalists last July identifying a CIA undercover agent, Valerie Plame, who was married to Joseph Wilson, a former ambassador who had called into question the administration's claims about Iraq's alleged nuclear programme. Rove allegedly told the journalists that Plame was "fair game" because her husband had gone public with his criticism.

A grand jury is now investigating the leak of Plame's name, a federal felony. Rove has denied being its source, and Wilson believes now he may have tried to push the story only after her name had already been published. Rove has yet to appear before the grand jury, but he has retained an expensive Washington lawyer.

It is a dangerous moment for Rove, but he has escaped from a litany of political scandals unscathed, and even enhanced. Bush's other nickname for the Boy Genius is "Turd Blossom" - a Texanism for a flower that blooms from cattle excrement. This year, there should be ample opportunity for him to earn the title.
Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2005

Friday, June 10, 2005

Losing Our Country

Baby boomers like me grew up in a relatively equal society. In the 1960's America was a place in which very few people were extremely wealthy, many blue-collar workers earned wages that placed them comfortably in the middle class, and working families could expect steadily rising living standards and a reasonable degree of economic security.

But as The Times's series on class in America reminds us, that was another country. The middle-class society I grew up in no longer exists.

Working families have seen little if any progress over the past 30 years. Adjusted for inflation, the income of the median family doubled between 1947 and 1973. But it rose only 22 percent from 1973 to 2003, and much of that gain was the result of wives' entering the paid labor force or working longer hours, not rising wages.

Meanwhile, economic security is a thing of the past: year-to-year fluctuations in the incomes of working families are far larger than they were a generation ago. All it takes is a bit of bad luck in employment or health to plunge a family that seems solidly middle-class into poverty.

But the wealthy have done very well indeed. Since 1973 the average income of the top 1 percent of Americans has doubled, and the income of the top 0.1 percent has tripled.

Why is this happening? I'll have more to say on that another day, but for now let me just point out that middle-class America didn't emerge by accident. It was created by what has been called the Great Compression of incomes that took place during World War II, and sustained for a generation by social norms that favored equality, strong labor unions and progressive taxation. Since the 1970's, all of those sustaining forces have lost their power.

Since 1980 in particular, U.S. government policies have consistently favored the wealthy at the expense of working families - and under the current administration, that favoritism has become extreme and relentless. From tax cuts that favor the rich to bankruptcy "reform" that punishes the unlucky, almost every domestic policy seems intended to accelerate our march back to the robber baron era.

It's not a pretty picture - which is why right-wing partisans try so hard to discredit anyone who tries to explain to the public what's going on.

These partisans rely in part on obfuscation: shaping, slicing and selectively presenting data in an attempt to mislead. For example, it's a plain fact that the Bush tax cuts heavily favor the rich, especially those who derive most of their income from inherited wealth. Yet this year's Economic Report of the President, in a bravura demonstration of how to lie with statistics, claimed that the cuts "increased the overall progressivity of the federal tax system."

The partisans also rely in part on scare tactics, insisting that any attempt to limit inequality would undermine economic incentives and reduce all of us to shared misery. That claim ignores the fact of U.S. economic success after World War II. It also ignores the lesson we should have learned from recent corporate scandals: sometimes the prospect of great wealth for those who succeed provides an incentive not for high performance, but for fraud.

Above all, the partisans engage in name-calling. To suggest that sustaining programs like Social Security, which protects working Americans from economic risk, should have priority over tax cuts for the rich is to practice "class warfare." To show concern over the growing inequality is to engage in the "politics of envy."

But the real reasons to worry about the explosion of inequality since the 1970's have nothing to do with envy. The fact is that working families aren't sharing in the economy's growth, and face growing economic insecurity. And there's good reason to believe that a society in which most people can reasonably be considered middle class is a better society - and more likely to be a functioning democracy - than one in which there are great extremes of wealth and poverty.

Reversing the rise in inequality and economic insecurity won't be easy: the middle-class society we have lost emerged only after the country was shaken by depression and war. But we can make a start by calling attention to the politicians who systematically make things worse in catering to their contributors. Never mind that straw man, the politics of envy. Let's try to do something about the politics of greed.

E-mail: krugman@nytimes.com

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Bush, The Spoiled Man-Child

Mark Morford has a way with words. I just had to add his recent article to my blog. It says precisely what many of us are thinking, but do not have his talent to communicate so effectively to others. Click on the links in this article for even more content and clarification of his views.

Frank John Schreiber

Bush, The Spoiled Man-Child What causes the fall of empires? Why, stubborn leaders who speak like toddlers and never admit mistakes - By Mark Morford, SF Gate ColumnistFriday, June 3, 2005
Know what real men do? They admit their mistakes. Know what real people do in times of great stress and strife and economic downturn? They seek help, understand they don't know all the answers, realize they might not've been asking the right questions in the first place.
Know what great leaders, great nations do at times of war and fracture and massive bludgeoning debt? All of the above, all the time, with great intelligence and humility and grace and awareness and shared humanity. Or they die.
But not BushCo. This is the hilarious thing. This is the appalling thing, still. How can this man remain so blindly, staggeringly resolute? How can he be so appallingly ignorant of fact, of truth, of evidence, of deep thought? In short, what the hell is wrong with George W. Bush?
Here it is, another bumbling, barely articulate press conference by Dubya, one of few he ever gives because he clearly hates the things and is deeply troubled by them, hates reporters who ask complicated questions and hates people who dare doubt his simple mindset, his effectiveness, his policies, his lopsided myopic one-way black/white good/evil worldview.
Bush hates press conferences because can't speak extemporaneously and can't form a complete sentence without mashing up the language like a five-year-old and can't express a complex idea to save his life and somewhere deep down, he knows it, and he knows we know it, and it makes him mumble and stutter and wish he could be somewhere else, anywhere else, like sittin' on the back porch in Texas eatin' ribs and dreamin' 'bout baseball. Ahhh, there now. That's better.
But here he is, instead, stuck like a pinned bug in the Rose Garden, struggling to answer tricky, multisyllabic questions from the godforsaken press. Go ahead, read the Q&A, linked above. It's sort of staggering. It's also very impressive, in a soul-stabbing, nauseating way.
Bush is, to be sure and in a word, unyielding. Determined. Immovable. Also, deeply confused. Myopic as hell. Frighteningly narrow minded. Weirdly random. Childish in a way that would make any good parent seriously question whether it might be time to get their child some Ritalin and an emetic.
Unlike you or me or any human anywhere who happens to be in possession of humility or subtlety of mind, Bush, to this day, admits zero mistakes. He refuses help, rejects suggestions that everything is not dandy and swell. He is confounded by questions that dare suggest he might be somewhat inept, or failing. And he absolutely insists that America exists in some sort of bizarre utopian vacuum, isolated and virtuous and towering like a mad hobbled king over our enemies and allies alike.
He is, in other words, our downfall.
Iraq? Going smoothly, Bush says, happy with the progress there, despite huge surges in insurgent violence and endless uptick of the U.S. death toll and the utter wasteland we've made of that poor, shredded nation.
Iran, North Korea and Egypt? Just dandy. No serious problems at all. Gotta talk more with that "North Korean" guy though, sort out the "nukuler" problem. Sneering thug John Bolton for U.N. ambassador? You betcha, still on track, a good man, despite what everybody -- and I do mean everybody -- says.
Overhaul Social Security, despite an enormous lack of support from Dems and Repubs and the vast majority of the American people? "Just a matter of time," Bush mutters, completely blinded to the fact that it's an enormous mistake. His deeply hypocritical stance on stem-cell research that kow-tows to the deeply ignorant Christian Right? No real answer there. Doesn't compute. Just shrug that sucker right off.
Notice, when you read: There is no eloquent, deeply felt defense of ideas. There is no intellectual breakdown of opinion, no multifaceted explanation, no passionate clarification. And there is certainly no reference to outside ideas, a confession that we might need help, input, wisdom from our neighbors, from science, from the wise and the experienced.
It's a fact we've known all along but which keeps hammering at us like a drunk gorilla hammers at a dead mouse: Bush is able to speak only at one level, to one level. The level of a child. The level of a simpleton. The level of a sweet, bumbling, small-town mayor, addressing a PTA meeting, everyone in soft plaids and everyone drinking light beer and everyone wondering about just what the heck to do about the rusty swing sets and the busted stoplight.
Bush is, of course, not talking to you or me or anyone with a remotely active imagination when he speaks at press conferences, or at his staged, pre-screened, sycophant-rich "town hall" meetings, so full of plain, everyday folk hand-selected for their blind love of Shrub and lack of ability to ask hard questions (read this transcript of a recent town hall on Social Security, and come away stupefied at the man's shocking ability to appear just exactly as gullible and uneducated as his questioners).
He is not even speaking to conservative Democrats or moderate Republicans. He's certainly not speaking to highly educated people who harbor a sincere curiousity for and tenuous understanding of the complexities of the world.
Bush is, of course, speaking to children. He is speaking to babies. It is a decidedly shallow and hollow and oddly deflated type of language that offers not a single nutritious or substantive thought to the political or cultural dialogue, other than to expand his staggering collection of embarrassing Bushisms.
It's all merely a crayon drawing, an intellectual wading pool, a big messy cartoon world populated by manly white good guys and fanged dark evil guys and we are good and They are evil and that's all there is to it so please stop asking weird tricky polysyllabic questions.
Maybe this is appropriate. Maybe this is as it should be. After all, we are, by and large, a nation that refuses to grow up, refuses to take responsibility for our gluttony and its global effects, refuses to see the world as it is now, a mad tangle of interconnected humanity, a global marketplace, a hodgepodge of variegated religions all stemming from the same source and which therefore all require a nimble and nuanced and deeply intelligent leadership, to navigate. Qualities which our current leadership has, well, not at all.
The U.S. still behaves, when all is said and done, like one of those scared wild monkeys, clinging desperately to a shiny object despite the trap closing in all around us, unable to let go of this old, silly, faux-cowboy mentality of boom boom kill kill God is your daddy now sit down and shut up.
What causes the downfall of empires? What causes the implosion of leadership, the slide of great nations into the deep muck of recession and war and mediocrity and numb irrelevance? That's easy. Stagnation. Refusal to change. Refusal to adapt, to progress. Refusal to grow the hell up, to take responsibility for our shortcomings and failures, as well as our successes.
Indeed, George W. Bush would make a great small-town mayor, somewhere deep in a dusty, forgotten part of Texas. His still-appalling inability to speak with any depth or resonance, coupled with his brand of personable, aww-shucks, none-too-bright simpleton worldview is perfect for some cute, redneck, tiny burg. It really is.
But for a major world power caught in the throes of a desperate need to change and grow and evolve, he is, of course, imminent death, leading us deeper into a regressive ideological tar pit from which we may never emerge.
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Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Karl's New Manifesto

Sure does stike a bell with all us working stiffs.....doesn't it! The past couple of decades has seen the middle class get much smaller in size. America was always the envy of the world because of its healthy middle class. These days, the middle is where you find the squeeze. The kids, and next generation are getting a bad deal. What we need is another "New Deal". Or, as one of those "Founding Fathers" once said, "each generation needs its own revolution".
Frank John

May 29, 2005
Karl's New Manifesto
I was in the library reading room when suddenly a strange specter of a man appeared above me. He was a ragged fellow with a bushy beard, dressed in the clothes of another century. He clutched news clippings on class in America, and atop the pile was a manifesto in his own hand. He was gone in an instant, but Karl's manifesto on modern America remained. This is what it said:

The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggle. Freeman and slave, lord and serf, capitalist and proletariat, in a word oppressor and oppressed, stand in opposition to each other and carry on a constant fight. In the information age, in which knowledge is power and money, the class struggle is fought between the educated elite and the undereducated masses.
The information age elite exercises artful dominion of the means of production, the education system. The median family income of a Harvard student is $150,000. According to the Educational Testing Service, only 3 percent of freshmen at the top 146 colleges come from the poorest quarter of the population. The educated class ostentatiously offers financial aid to poor students who attend these colleges and then rigs the admission criteria to ensure that only a small, co-optable portion of them can get in.
The educated class reaps the benefits of the modern economy - seizing for itself most of the income gains of the past decades - and then ruthlessly exploits its position to ensure the continued dominance of its class.
The educated class has torn away from the family its sentimental veil and reduced it to a mere factory for the production of little meritocrats. Members of the educated elites are more and more likely to marry each other, which the experts call assortative mating, but which is really a ceaseless effort to refortify class solidarity and magnify social isolation. Children are turned into workaholic knowledge workers - trained, tutored, tested and prepped to strengthen class dominance.
The educated elites are the first elites in all of history to work longer hours per year than the exploited masses, so voracious is their greed for second homes. They congregate in exclusive communities walled in by the invisible fence of real estate prices, then congratulate themselves for sending their children to public schools. They parade their enlightened racial attitudes by supporting immigration policies that guarantee inexpensive lawn care. They send their children off to Penn, Wisconsin and Berkeley, bastions of privilege for the children of the professional class, where they are given the social and other skills to extend class hegemony.
The information society is the only society in which false consciousness is at the top. For it is an iron rule of any university that the higher the tuition and more exclusive the admissions, the more loudly the denizens profess their solidarity with the oppressed. The more they objectively serve the right, the more they articulate the views of the left.
Periodically members of this oppressor class hold mock elections. The Yale-educated scion of the Bush family may face the Yale-educated scion of the Winthrop family. They divide into Republicans and Democrats and argue over everything except the source of their power: the intellectual stratification of society achieved through the means of education.
More than the Roman emperors, more than the industrial robber barons, the malefactors of the educated class seek not only to dominate the working class, but to decimate it. For 30 years they have presided over failing schools without fundamentally transforming them. They have imposed a public morality that affords maximum sexual opportunity for themselves and guarantees maximum domestic chaos for those lower down.
In 1960 there were not big structural differences between rich and poor families. In 1960, three-quarters of poor families were headed by married couples. Now only a third are. While the rates of single parenting have barely changed for the educated elite, family structures have disintegrated for the oppressed masses.
Poor children are less likely to live with both biological parents, hence, less likely to graduate from high school, get a job and be in a position to challenge the hegemony of the privileged class. Family inequality produces income inequality from generation to generation.
Undereducated workers of the world, unite! Let the ruling educated class tremble! You have nothing to lose but your chains. You have a world to win!
I don't agree with everything in Karl's manifesto, because I don't believe in incessant class struggle, but you have to admit, he makes some good points.
E-mail: dabrooks@nytimes.com

Thursday, May 12, 2005


I really like the title of this article by Ted Rall. So True. Why do they get away with all this crap. Why don't they have to own up to the bullshit ! Where the hell is the media in this carload of lies. I simply don't get it! We might as well be living in some totalitarian country where the truth and reality is not an issue. Welcome to 1984 in 2005.
Frank John

By Ted RallTue May 10, 9:37 PM ET
Lies Run Big, Facts Small in U.S. Media
NEW YORK--One year ago the American media was pushing the Pat Tillman story with the heavy rotation normally reserved for living celebs like Michael Jackson. Tillman, the former NFL player who turned down a multi-million dollar football contract to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan, became a centerpiece of the right's Hamas-style death cult when he lost his life in the mountains of southeastern Afghanistan. To supporters of the wars and to many football fans, Tillman embodied ideals of self-sacrifice and post-9/11 butt-kicking in a hard-bodied shell of chisel-chinned masculinity on steroids.
Tillman's quintessential nobility, we were told, was borne out by the story of his death--a tale that earned him a posthumous Silver Star. Whether you were for or against Bush's wars, Americans were told, Tillman's valor showed why you should support the troops. Young men were encouraged to emulate his praiseworthy example.
Several thousand mourners gathered at Tillman's May 3, 2004 memorial service to hear marquee names including Arizona Senator John McCain called upon all Americans to "be worthy of the sacrifices made on our behalf." "Tillman died trying to save fellow members of the 75th Ranger Regiment caught in a crush of enemy fire," the Arizona Republic quoted a fellow soldier addressing the crowd. Tillman, said his friend and comrade-at-arms, had told his fellow soldiers "to seize the tactical high ground from the enemy" to draw enemy fire away from another U.S. platoon trapped in an ambush. "He directly saved their lives with those moves. Pat sacrificed his life so that others could live." It was, as the Washington Post wrote, a "storybook personal narrative"--one recounted on hundreds of front pages and network newscasts.
It was also a lie.
As sharp-eyed readers learned a few months ago from single-paragraph articles buried deep inside their newspapers, Pat Tillman died pointlessly, a hapless victim of "friendly fire" who never got the chance to choose between bravery and cowardice. As if that wasn't bad enough, the Washington Post now reports that Pentagon and White House officials knew the truth "within days" after his April 22, 2004 shooting by fellow Army Rangers but "decided not to inform Tillman's family or the public until weeks after" the nationally televised martyr-a-thon.
It gets worse. So desperate were the military brass to carry off their propaganda coup that they lied to Tillman's brother, a fellow soldier who arrived on the scene shortly after the incident, about how he died. Writing in an army report, Brigadier General Gary Jones admits that the official cover-up even included "the destruction of evidence": the army burned Tillman's Ranger uniform and body armor to hide the fact that he had died in a hail of American bullets, fired by troops who had "lost situational awareness to the point they had no idea where they were."
"We didn't want the world finding out what actually happened," one soldier told Jones. A perfect summary of the war on terrorism.
The weapons of mass destruction turned out to be a figment of Donald Rumsfeld's imagination. The Thanksgiving turkey Bush presented to the troops turned out to be plastic, as much of a staged photo op as the gloriously iconic and phony toppling of Saddam's statue in Baghdad by jubilant Iraqi civilians--well, actually a few dozen marines and CIA-financed operatives. So many of the Administration's "triumphs" have been exposed as frauds that one has to wonder whether that was really Saddam in the spider hole.
We shouldn't blame the White House for producing lies; that's what politicians do. But we expect better from the media who disseminate them.
Case study: the Washington Post's dutiful transcription of the Jessica Lynch hoax. Played up on page one and running on for thousands of words, the fanciful Pentagon version had the pilot from West Virginia emptying her clip before finally succumbing to a gunshot wound (and possible rape) by evil Iraqi ambushers, then freed from her tormentors at a heavily-guarded POW hospital.
Like the Pat Tillman story, it was pure fiction. Private Lynch, neither shot nor sexually violated, said she was injured when her vehicle crashed. She never got off a shot because her gun jammed. As she told reporters who were willing to listen, her Iraqi doctors and nurses had given her excellent care. She credited them for saving her life. In a weird sort of prequel to the shooting of an Italian journalist, they had even attempted to turn her over at a U.S. checkpoint but were forced to flee when American troops fired at them.
In all of these examples, editors and producers played corrective follow-up stories with far less fanfare than the original, incorrect ones. To paraphrase "X-Files" character Fox Mulder, the truth is in there--in the paper, on TV. It's just really, really hard to find.
Readers of the American press and viewers of American radio and television are likelier to see and believe loudly repeated lies over occasionally whispered truths told once or twice. As a result of the reverse imbalance between fact and fiction, the propaganda versions of the Tillman and Lynch stories, the staged Saddam statue footage, and the claim that Iraq had WMDs are all believed by a misled citizenry that votes accordingly.
For journalists supposedly dedicated to uncovering the truth and informing the public, this is exactly the opposite of how things ought to be. Corrections and exposés should always run bigger, longer and more often than initial, discredited stories.
FOLLOW-UP: Readers who contacted their elected representatives in response to my column two weeks ago about the two 16-year-old Muslim girls detained by Homeland Security because one wrote an essay about suicide bombings (she was against them) have gotten results. Such pressure has prompted the feds to release the girl from Guinea, who has returned to her high school in New York City. But Bush Administration officials have decided to orphan her by deporting her father. The other girl, from Bangladesh, is also being released from prison but HomeSec plans to deport her along with her entire family. While the two girls' release obviously belies the government's claims that they are "an imminent threat to the security of the United States," your letters and phone calls to your Congressperson and/or Senator could help reverse these continuing acts of injustice.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Screw-up and Bush will promote you!


Dear Frank,
The Senate Committee on Foreign Relations - and, in particular, Senator Lincoln Chafee - have a big decision to make this week.
I've made my decision. I will vigorously oppose the nomination of John Bolton as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.
Have you ever noticed that in the Bush Administration, the only way to get a job promotion is to bungle our national security? As under secretary of state for arms control and international security for the past four years, Mr. Bolton has achieved little. In fact, we secured more nuclear materials in the two years before September 11th than in the two years after. North Korea and Iran are now burgeoning nuclear states. This record earned John Bolton a nomination to the UN?
How can we believe this nomination makes any sense at all?
We can't believe it.
But, unless Senator Lincoln Chafee puts principle over party, the inexplicable John Bolton nomination will squeak through the Foreign Relations Committee on a party line vote.
We have to do everything we can to make sure that doesn't happen.
That's why, in addition to being vocal about my own opposition to Senator Bolton, I am organizing johnkerry.com activists in Rhode Island to contact Senator Chafee, and I am running online ads in the Rhode Island media.
See the ad for yourself.
Why retain and promote those who have failed to make America more safe and secure? Donald Rumsfeld has been a disaster as Secretary of Defense. That's why over 800,000 people have signed our petition supporting my call for Rumsfeld's resignation. Yet the President stands stubbornly by him.
Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz has made repeated and serious miscalculations about the costs and risks America would face in Iraq. Yet now the Bush Administration wants us to believe he is the right person to lead the World Bank.
And now, the Bush administration wants to add John Bolton to that astonishing list.
I will keep you posted on our efforts to stop this nomination from advancing.
John Kerry
P.S. I'm sharing this with you because I want you to know how hard we're working on this critical vote. But, I also want you to be prepared. Should the Bolton nomination make it through committee, we may have to wage a nationwide effort to defeat it on the floor of the Senate.

Call Me a Bush-Hater

This was written by Molly Ivins back in November, 2003 but is still relavent to how I and many others think and feel today. I haven't seen any change in the current regime to make me feel any different.........Frank John

Molly Ivins, The Progressive
November 14, 2003
Viewed on November 17, 2003

Among the more amusing cluckings from the right lately is their appalled discovery that quite a few Americans actually think George W. Bush is a terrible president.

Robert Novak is quoted as saying in all his 44 years of covering politics, he has never seen anything like the detestation of Bush. Charles Krauthammer managed to write an entire essay on the topic of "Bush-haters" in Time magazine as though he had never before come across a similar phenomenon.

Oh, I stretch memory way back, so far back, all the way back to--our last president. Almost lost in the mists of time though it is, I not only remember eight years of relentless attacks from Clinton-haters, I also notice they haven't let up yet. Clinton-haters accused the man of murder, rape, drug running, sexual harassment, financial chicanery, and official misconduct. And they accuse his wife of even worse.

For eight long years, this country was a zoo of Clinton-haters. Any idiot with a big mouth and a conspiracy theory could get a hearing on radio talk shows and "Christian" broadcasts and nutty Internet sites. People with transparent motives, people paid by tabloid magazines, people with known mental problems, ancient Clinton enemies with notoriously racist pasts--all were given hearings, credence, and air time. Sliming Clinton was a sure road to fame and fortune on the right, and many an ambitious young rightwing hit man like David Brock, who has since made full confession, took that golden opportunity.
And these folks didn't stop with verbal and printed attacks. From the day Clinton was elected to office, he was the subject of the politics of personal destruction. They went after him with a multimillion-dollar smear campaign funded by Richard Mellon Scaife, the rightwing billionaire. They went after him with lawsuits funded by rightwing legal foundations (Paula Jones), they got special counsels appointed to investigate every nitpicking nothing that ever happened (Filegate, Travelgate), and they never let go of that hardy perennial Whitewater.

After all this time and all those millions of dollars wasted, no one has ever proved that the Clintons did a single thing wrong. Bill Clinton lied about a pathetic, squalid affair that was none of anyone else's business anyway, and for that they impeached the man and dragged this country through more than a year of the most tawdry, ridiculous, unnecessary pain. The day President Clinton tried to take out Osama bin Laden with a missile strike, every right-winger in America said it was a case of "wag the dog." He was supposedly trying to divert our attention from the much more breathtakingly important and serious matter of Monica Lewinsky. And who did he think he was to make us focus on some piffle like bin Laden?

"The puzzle is where this depth of feeling comes from," mused the ineffable Mr. Krauthammer. Gosh, what a puzzle that is. How could anyone not be just crazy about George W. Bush? "Whence the anger?" asks Krauthammer. "It begins of course with the 'stolen' election of 2000 and the perception of Bush's illegitimacy."

I'd say so myself, yes, I would. I was in Florida during that chilling post-election fight, and am fully persuaded to this good day that Al Gore actually won Florida, not to mention getting 550,000 more votes than Bush overall. But I also remember thinking, as the scene became eerier and eerier, "Jeez, maybe we should just let them have this one, because Republican wing-nuts are so crazy, their bitterness would poison Gore's whole presidency." The night Gore conceded the race in one of the most graceful and honorable speeches I have ever heard, I was in a ballroom full of Republican Party flacks who booed and jeered through every word of it.

One thing I acknowledge about the right is that they're much better haters than liberals are. Your basic liberal--milk of human kindness flowing through every vein, and heart bleeding over everyone from the milk-shy Hottentot to the glandular obese--is pretty much a strikeout on the hatred front. Maybe further out on the left you can hit some good righteous anger, but liberals, and I am one, are generally real wusses. Guys like Rush Limbaugh figured that out a long time ago--attack a liberal and the first thing he says is, "You may have a point there."

To tell the truth, I'm kind of proud of us for holding the grudge this long. Normally, we'd remind ourselves that we have to be good sports, it's for the good of the country, we must unite behind the only president we've got, as Lyndon used to remind us. If there are still some of us out here sulking, "Yeah, but they stole that election," well, good. I don't think we should forget that.

But, onward. So George Dubya becomes president, having run as a "compassionate conservative," and what do we get? Hell's own conservative and dick for compassion.

His entire first eight months was tax cuts for the rich, tax cuts for the rich, tax cuts for the rich, and he lied and said the tax cuts would help average Americans. Again and again, the "average" tax cut would be $1,000. That means you get $100, and the millionaire gets $92,000, and that's how they "averaged" it out. Then came 9/11, and we all rallied. Ready to give blood, get out of our cars and ride bicycles, whatever. Shop, said the President. And more tax cuts for the rich.

By now, we're starting to notice Bush's bait-and-switch. Make a deal with Ted Kennedy to improve education and then fail to put money into it. Promise $15 billion in new money to combat AIDS in Africa (wow!) but it turns out to be a cheap con, almost no new money. Bush comes to praise a job training effort, and then cuts the money. Bush says AmeriCorps is great, then cuts the money. Gee, what could we possibly have against this guy? We go along with the war in Afghanistan, and we still don't have bin Laden.

Then suddenly, in the greatest bait-and-switch of all time, Osama bin doesn't matter at all, and we have to go after Saddam Hussein, who had nothing to do with 9/11. But he does have horrible weapons of mass destruction, and our president "without doubt," without question, knows all about them, even unto the amounts--tons of sarin, pounds of anthrax. So we take out Saddam Hussein, and there are no weapons of mass destruction. Furthermore, the Iraqis are not overjoyed to see us.

By now, quite a few people who aren't even liberal are starting to say, "Wha the hey?" We got no Osama, we got no Saddam, we got no weapons of mass destruction, the road map to peace in the Middle East is blown to hell, we're stuck in this country for $87 billion just for one year and no one knows how long we'll be there. And still poor Mr. Krauthammer is hard-put to conceive how anyone could conclude that George W. Bush is a poor excuse for a President.

Chuck, honey, it ain't just the 2.6 million jobs we've lost: People are losing their pensions, their health insurance, the cost of health insurance is doubling, tripling in price, the Administration wants to cut off their overtime, and Bush was so too little, too late with extending unemployment compensation that one million Americans were left high and dry. And you wonder why we think he's a lousy president?

Sure, all that is just what's happening in people's lives, but what we need is the Big Picture. Well, the Big Picture is that after September 11, we had the sympathy of every nation on Earth. They all signed up, all our old allies volunteered, everybody was with us, and Bush just booted all of that away. Sneering, jeering, bad manners, hideous diplomacy, threats, demands, arrogance, bluster.

"In Afghanistan, Bush rode a popular tide; Iraq, however, was a singular act of presidential will," says Krauthammer.

You bet your ass it was. We attacked a country that had done nothing to us, had nothing to do with Al Qaeda, and turns out not to have weapons of mass destruction.

It is not necessary to hate George W. Bush to think he's a bad president. Grownups can do that, you know. You can decide someone's policies are a miserable failure without lying awake at night consumed with hatred.

Poor Bush is in way over his head, and the country is in bad shape because of his stupid economic policies. If that makes me a Bush-hater, then sign me up

Thursday, April 14, 2005

IRS Rigs the System in Favor of Super-Rich

The Greed Enterprise by loyal_resistance

Power and Wealth.....Pretty much the same ain't it......whatever happened to the "General Welfare", and the strong "Middle Class"
----------Loyal Resistance-----------

While millions of Americans in the last quarter-century debated about who shot J.R. and scurried for news about who would be Jennifer Lopez's next lover, Congress quietly passed tax laws that shift the tax burden from the 28,000 Americans in households with incomes of $8 million per year or more. Over time, the impact of tax relief for the super rich and more taxes for everyone else is profound. The rich can save and invest more and more, increasing their incomes and political power over time through the magic of compound interest, while everyone else has less of their money to spend or save and millions of people are mired in debt. While wage earners have every dollar of income reported to the government, the super rich control what the IRS knows about their incomes. But the rich are rarely audited anymore. Congress also gives them many perfectly legal devices to defer reporting income for years or decades. That means that the real incomes of the super rich are much larger than the IRS data show and their tax burden is even lighter.

All of this is having a devastating impact on America, which the preamble to our Constitution says was created to "promote the general welfare." Until Americans decide to take back their democracy and become actively engaged in politics, the super rich will continue to rig the tax system for their benefit only.

------------- CLICK BELOW FOR THE FULL STORY-----------------

Monday, April 11, 2005

Arrogance abroad; Arrogance at home

Arrogance abroad; arrogance at home

Friday April 8, 2009 By Jene Galvin
Republican leaders seem to have embraced a theme for George Bush's second term: arrogance.
By nominating John Bolton for ambassador to the United Nations, someone known by the world to abhor the U.N., President Bush is continuing to flaunt a "my way or highway" approach to foreign policy. One that says, who cares about the views of world leaders? Although Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee may have the votes to block Bolton's confirmation. We'll talk about it.
Then yesterday, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay escalated his attack on America's judicial branch by telling a conservative advocacy group that it's time to "reassert our constitutional authority over the courts." All because, in his view, too few judges are reshaping the country into a theocracy.
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Native of the Philadelphia "Kensington and Alleganey" northeast area. I spent 4 years in the Air Force (Titan-II missles in Tuscon Arizona). I Am currently retired, and among other adventures I spent 28 years working for AT&T in Telecommunications. I've lived in Florida for 33 years....20 years in Hollywood Fla., and 13 years North Florida. I've been married 42 years, and am a proud father of three adult offspring. All of them contributing to society in a very useful and creative manner.