No More Apples
"Adam ate an apple from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. It's a shame we ran out of apples." -- The Sage.
"The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness." -- John Kenneth Galbraith
"Reality has a liberal bias." -- Stephen Colbert
We are proud members of the resistance.
Wednesday, August 18
Monday, August 16
ON THE ROAD AGAIN...
Sparse blogging ahead! I'll be on the road this week for business and, toward the weekend, a little pleasure with the fam. Things should get back to normal next week. (I wish I could say that about the country.)
"I UNDERSTAND THE STAKES"
Matthew Yglesias on Tapped:
G. BUSH: The question is: Who can best lead the country in a time of war? That's really what the debate ought to be about. And I think it's me. Because I understand the stakes.
But Bush's framing of the issue exclusively in terms of the fact that he understands "the stakes" is bizarre and indefensible. It's like saying you're qualified to play quarterback at the Super Bowl because you know it's a really, really important game.
I think this is more a matter of Bush once again using code to speak to his base. "The stakes," I suggest, to a certain portion of the populace are precisely these: the very existence of the United States and Christianity in the world. Radical Islamofascists want to remake the world in their own image and recognize that the U.S.A. is the only country that will stand up to them (but only if George Bush is in power). They'll stop at nothing to destroy our will, our way of life, and our people, so that they can take over our country and destroy Christianity. This is a religious war, fellas, with the forces of darkness battling the forces of light (we're the light). Thererfore, it's incumbent upon us to remake our way of life (slimmer civil liberties, power consolidated among those who can be "trusted" to be "loyal," eradication of gay and abortion rights, enabling legislation to allow greater unity of church and state, a return to male-dominated institutions, etc.) before they can do it for us.
It's our Taliban or their Taliban.
REVEREND BUSH CONVERTS ANOTHER REPORTER
Among the worshippers at a recent Ohio Bush campaign event was, evidently, Chris Suellentrop of Slate, who filed this report:
"All of you are soldiers in the army of compassion," the clergyman-in-chief tells the crowd. "And one of the reasons I'm seeking the office for four more years is to call upon our citizens to love your neighbor just like you'd like to be loved yourself." After his usual endorsement of the Golden Rule, Bush speaks of souls, which also isn't unusual for him: "We can change America one soul at a time by encouraging people to spread something government cannot spread, which is love."
Bush isn't a fire-and-brimstone preacher, talking about sinners in the hands of an angry God. He's a hippie priest, emphasizing the Christian message of brotherly love. I can almost hear the guitars and tambourines. He says, "I know we can change America for the better by calling on those who are change agents, those who are willing to put our arm around someone who needs love and say, 'I love you, brother. I love you, sister. What can I do to help you have a better life here in America?'"
ExcUUUUSSe MEEEEE!?! Bush's "compassionate conservatism" is such a joke I'm amazed that he dares continue to use it on the stump. Bush & Co. have done everything possible to gut the social safety net and have every intention of bringing it completely down during a second term.
Government can't "spread love" -- and under Bush, it can't spread the tax breaks, the burdens of war, or fair play either; his cronies and other elites get the first, the economically disadvantaged and middle class get the second, and NOBODY under BushCo gets the third. Hey buddy, you're not the lover-in-chief, you're the commander-in-chief. Leave the love stuff to people who know what that is, and take care of the business you're paid for, which is civil governance.
From there, Bush becomes a teacher, imparting "the lessons of September the 11th, 2001." "We'll never forget!" a man seated among the firefighters calls out. Bush's Lesson 1: "We're facing an enemy which has no heart, no compassion. And that puts them at an advantage in a way, because we're a country of heart and compassion."
There was a time when the whole world believed that about us. But tell it now to the thousands of innocent Iraqis who were "shocked and awed" to death. Tell that to the victims of the Abu Ghraib abuses. Tell that to the detainees at Guantanamo and the "hidden houses" where we stash suspects around the world indefinitely without access to due process.
Lesson 2: "In order to defend the homeland, we got to be on the offense. We must deal with those people overseas, so we don't have to face them here at home."
If we keep destroying their countries, they'll soon be over here in droves.
Lesson 3: "In order to be able to defend ourselves, we've got to say to people who are willing to harbor a terrorist or feed a terrorist, you're just as guilty as the terrorists."
That would be acceptable if we're really talking about terrorists and not insurgents who have every right to repel an invading force. Then it's not defending ourselves, it's just plain incursion.
Lesson 4: "When we see threats, we must deal with them before they fully materialize." Lesson 5 is a corollary of Lesson 4: "We saw a threat in Iraq."
"When we see threats...before they fully materialize" -- the scariest Bushism of all.
Even while Bush is in his teaching mode, the whole event has a Sunday-morning air. Bush says of Saddam, "He had used weapons of mass destruction. Remember that? He had used them on his own people." The crowd murmurs back, "That's right, that's right." When Bush mentions that John Kerry and John Edwards were two of only 12 senators—whom Wednesday he called "a small, out-of-the-mainstream minority"—to vote against the $87 billion for the war in Iraq, someone else yells out, "Shame on them!"
The Misleader-in-Chief, naturally, fails to remind his audience that he threatened to veto the very same bill if it didn't come out the way he wanted it.
Bush almost gets weepy later, when he tells a story "that touched my heart," about seven Iraqi men who visited him in the Oval Office. The men's right hands were chopped off by order of Saddam Hussein, and they had X's burned into their foreheads. An American organization provided them with prostheses. "A guy took my Sharpie, wrapped his new fingers and wrote, 'God bless America,' in Arabic," Bush says, his voice choking up. "What a contrast," he says. In America, "We want to heal you, no matter who you are," his voice catching again.
So, are we going to abandon Iraq? Bush asks the crowd. "Are we going to be a country of our word?" he asks. "Or are we going to go timid and weary and afraid of the barbaric behavior of a few?" The crowd shouts back: "No!"
Bush says a CEO in the audience has an interesting idea to share. The man doesn't say anything. "Flex time," Bush says. "I'm glad you told me what my interesting idea was," the CEO says appreciatively. Bush replies, "I'm not a lawyer, but it looks like I'm leading the witness." "I appreciate that," the CEO says, and Bush shoots back, "You appreciate the fact that I'm not a lawyer?"
How out of touch can one man get? FLEX TIME is new??? The only thing knew about it is Bush's proposal to have it take the place of overtime pay.
After last week's Democratic convention, I felt that John Kerry had become the favorite in the presidential race. Now, after only two days with President Bush, I'm not so sure. He's that good. Unlike many people, I'm not threatened by the president's religious rhetoric. It must be the Midwestern Catholic in me. Like the people in the audience, I find it familiar and comforting. I can see why so many people believe the president is "one of us," no matter how rich or how elite his background. And I can see that Kerry will have a tough time besting Bush in all three debates.
After only two days with Bush, Suellentrop has decided that the polls be damned, Bush is the favorite. Forget about the fact that Bush's campaign events admit the true believers ONLY. Of COURSE he had the crowd eating out of his hand! And who's "threatened" by his religious rhetoric? I'd be just fine with it if he wasn't such a blasted hypocrite and it wasn't such an Elmer Gantry performance.
"One of us?" No thank you. I hang with a better crowd.
WHY KERRY IS RIGHT ON IRAQ
Fareed Zakaria defends John Kerry's position on Iraq as the most defensible answer to the question, given what we knew at the time, was toppling Saddam's regime a worthwhile objective?
Perhaps Iraq would have been a disaster no matter what. But there's a thinly veiled racism behind such views, implying that Iraqis are savages genetically disposed to produce chaos and anarchy. In fact, other nation-building efforts over the past decade have gone reasonably well, when well planned and executed.
The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad by Fareed Zakaria
Other books by Fareed Zakaria"Strategy is execution," Louis Gerstner, former CEO of IBM, American Express and RJR Nabisco, has often remarked. In fact, it's widely understood in the business world that having a good objective means nothing if you implement it badly. "Unless you translate big thoughts into concrete steps for action, they're pointless," writes Larry Bossidy, former CEO of Honeywell.
Bossidy has written a book titled "Execution," which is worth reading in this context. Almost every requirement he lays out was ignored by the Bush administration in its occupation of Iraq. One important example: "You cannot have an execution culture without robust dialogue—one that brings reality to the surface through openness, candor, and informality," Bossidy writes. "Robust dialogue starts when people go in with open minds. You cannot set realistic goals until you've debated the assumptions behind them."
Say this in the business world and it is considered wisdom. But say it as a politician and it is derided as "nuance" or "sophistication." Perhaps that's why Washington works as poorly as it does.
TOP 10 CONSERVATIVE IDIOTS
This week's Top Ten Conservative Idiots, from Democratic Underground.
DOING THEIR BEST TO MAKE FLORIDA SYNONYMOUS WITH ELECTION SCANDAL
I hope Jeb Bush really, really loves his brother, because his activities on behalf of George's presidential aspirations have destroyed any chance of his ever running a credible presidential campaign for himself. Bob Herbert has a piece on this today called "Suppress the Vote" --
Maybe it could be subtitled "What I Did For Love..."
Sunday, August 15
Kaplan on iraq
No Way Out
Is there any hope of avoiding catastrophe in Iraq?
By Fred Kaplan
Posted Friday, Aug. 13, 2004, at 10:25 AM PT
No solutions in sight. This is a terribly grim thing to say, but there might be no solution to the problem of Iraq. There might be nothing we can do to build a path to a stable, secure, let alone democratic regime. And there's no way we can just pull out without plunging the country, the region, and possibly beyond into still deeper disaster.
Much as the Bush administration hoped otherwise, the fighting didn't stop—or so much as turn a corner—after sovereignty passed from the Coalition Provisional Authority to the new government of Iraq. Prime Minister Iyad Allawi made a fine speech on the occasion about dealing with the insurgency, especially the need to isolate the foreign jihadists from the homegrown rebels who simply don't like being occupied. But the distinction has turned out to be muddy, and it will remain so until Allawi demonstrates he deserves their loyalty—that is, until he proves that he's independent from his American benefactors and competent at restoring basic services.
Meanwhile, the U.S. military—the only force in Iraq remotely capable of keeping the country from falling apart—finds itself in a maddening situation where tactical victories yield strategic setbacks. The Marines could readily defeat the insurgents in Najaf, but only at the great risk of inflaming Shiites—and sparking still larger insurgencies—elsewhere. In the Sadr City section of Baghdad, as U.S. commanders acknowledge, practically every resident is an insurgent.
There are not enough U.S. and British troops now to create the conditions for order. Nor are there likely to be any time soon.
John Kerry says that, if elected president, he'd persuade our allies—the ones Bush blew off—to come help (or bail) us out. Kerry would certainly be an abler diplomat than Bush; he would repair tattered alliances, and the benefits would likely be substantial in many aspects of international politics. But it's unclear how even Kerry would lure reluctant leaders to send significant numbers of combat troops into what they see as the quagmire of Iraq.
Meanwhile, the Bush administration seems to be muddling through with neither a military strategy for beating the insurgents nor a political strategy for securing Iraq's stability.
Bush seems to have gone into this war without any notion that he was popping the lid off a Jack-in-a-box—that toppling Saddam and destroying the Baath Party (however laudable) would also uncork decades of pent-up ethnic and tribal tensions. If his advisers were better briefed, they took no steps to quell the likely postwar conflicts. They didn't send more troops to keep order (either in defiance or in ignorance of historic precedent). More to the point here, they didn't seek out the various ethnic leaders or offer them incentives to join a new political order. They didn't, for that matter, formulate a new political order. (Perhaps they thought Ahmad Chalabi had that department under control.)
Check out Slate for the full article: No Way Out - Is there any hope of avoiding catastrophe in Iraq? By Fred Kaplan
BUSH'S PROSPECTS IN FLORIDA NOT GOOD
Via Bad Attitudes, we read this article that gives me hope for my native state:
President Bush's prospects in Florida are looking increasingly shaky.
Barely 80 days before election day, signs abound that Democrats are outperforming Republicans in the state Bush virtually has to win to gain another term in the White House.
Republicans had vowed an unprecedented voter registration program, but Democrats are far outpacing them in registration gains.
Democrats have far more operatives on the ground, thanks largely to well-funded liberal organizations aggressively working to mobilize John Kerry supporters.
The past two statewide polls show the Massachusetts senator leading by 6 or 7 percentage points, and, along with other recent polls, point to a number of other ominous signs for the president.