Sunday, January 11, 2009
How Bush Unwittingly Helped Bin Laden's Plan To Wreck U.S. Economy
"We are continuing this policy in bleeding America to the point of bankruptcy."
---Osama bin Laden, 2004 videotape statement.
"The past eight years of imperial overstretch, hubris and domestic and international abuse of power on the part of the Bush administration has left the U.S. materially weakened financially, economically, politically and morally. Even the most hard-nosed, Guantanamo Bay-indifferent potential foreign investor in the U.S. must recognize that its financial system has collapsed."
---Willem Buiter, London School of Economics, 2009.
Contrary to what George W. Bush would have us believe, Osama bin Laden does not hate America for its freedoms. Nor has bin Laden ever harbored ambitions of destroying America in a military confrontation.
No, actually, what bin Laden has long sought is to diminish America's standing in the world by wrecking our economy. Bin Laden believes this is possible because he saw first-hand how the Soviet Union met its demise.
As bin Laden said in a 2004 statement, "We, alongside the mujahedeen, bled Russia for 10 years until it went bankrupt and was forced to withdraw in defeat."
It's clear that the main goal of the 9/11 attacks was to provoke the U.S. into a costly war in Afghanistan that would drain our treasury and ultimately weaken the main lever of America's global power and influence: the U.S. dollar.
Unfortunately for America, after 9/11, Bush took bin Laden's bait. As bin Laden put it himself in 2004, Al-Qaeda found it "easy for us to provoke and bait this administration."
In fact, bin Laden succeeded beyond his wildest dreams in provoking America into not one, but two disastrous and ruinously expensive wars that have done untold damage to America's global standing, as well as our economic power.
Eight years after the 9/11 attacks, America's economy is in the worst shape it has been since the Great Depression. But the damage is actually far worse than that. As bad as things were in the 1930s, few people then seriously expected the dollar to collapse or for America to become a bankrupt nation. Now, such forecasts are increasingly common.
It's becoming frightening clear that the U.S. dollar is now teetering on the edge of a cliff. For all of the economic misery of 2008, the dollar managed to avoid a steep collapse in value. But it's increasingly likely that in 2009, the East Asian nations that hold trillions of dollars in U.S. debt will finally start off-loading their assets. And when they do, the dollar will crumble in value.
The destruction of the dollar's value will mean an end to America's reign as the world's sole superpower. Once upon a time, such a scenario was embraced only by an alarmist fringe of commentators who weren't taken seriously. But these days, more and more mainstream respectable observers now believe this will be America's fate in the near future. Even Warren Buffet, the wealthiest man on earth, has said the U.S. is at risk of becoming a "sharecropper’s society."
How Bush Took Bin Laden's Bait
During the Soviets' disastrous war in Afghanistan, bin Laden saw first-hand the devastating effects that imperial overstretch can have on a nation's economy. Clearly, that costly fiasco played a role in the ultimate demise of the Soviet Union.
The 9/11 attacks were meant to provoke the U.S. into a similarly costly and debilitating war. And in this, it succeeded beyond bin Laden's wildest dreams, as Bush proceeded to launch not one, but two disastrous wars. (That one of these wars was against the secular state of Iraq, headed by bin Laden's old nemesis, Saddam Hussein, was the icing on the cake).
The 9/11 attacks presented a series of challenges to George W. Bush. The challenges were clear: kill or capture bin Laden and destroy Al-Qaeda.
Eight years later, it's difficult to comprehend just how much Bush has utterly failed to meet this challenge. Bin Laden remains a free man. Al-Qaeda remains intact and is still as lethal as ever. And the Taliban are back and growing in strength.
On the other hand, America is a profoundly different nation than the one that existed before 9/11. We're now a country that is widely despised, feared and hated around the world. We're a vastly weaker nation, economically, than we were before 9/11. America's debts have mushroomed to fantastic levels that threaten the nation's economic security.
About the only thing future historians will remember about Bush's presidency is that he presided over the beginning of the end of the American empire. And it's clear that his bungled response to 9/11 was a key factor in America's ultimate demise as a superpower.
It's this last point that is especially noteworthy. Bin Laden realized early on that his ragtag group of Al-Qaeda fighters could never defeat the U.S. militarily. And horrific as they were, the 9/11 attacks by themselves were a mere pinprick on the overall American economy.
For bin Laden to succeed, he needed the unwitting cooperation of George W. Bush. And that's exactly what bin Laden got, with Bush's disastrous, bungling response to the 9/11 attacks.
Saturday, January 10, 2009
Bush's Last 10 Days, Part 1: Recipe For Fiscal Disaster
As the countdown to Bush as ex-"president" begins, it might be good to put into context why some Americans, even some U.S. historians, regard Il Doofus as the worst "president" of modern times.
The federal deficit for the current fiscal year is being projected at $1.2 trillion. That's more than the entire national debt was at the time Jimmy Carter left office in January 1981.
The Congressional Budget Office report lays much of the blame for this spike on lower tax revenues due to the recession, and on $400 billion spent to bail out Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and various financial institutions amid the mortgage crisis. Bush policies did a great deal to contribute to all of the above, but that's another post. For now, let's stick to the budget.
The deficit for fiscal 2007-08 was about $455 billion, consistent in real dollars with what was being run annually during the Reagan and Bush I presidencies. It's not too shocking, until you consider that Bush II inherited what had been the largest surplus the federal government has ever run, some $230 billion in fiscal 1999-2000, from departing President Bill Clinton's administration.
The surplus decreased to $158 billion during fiscal 2000-01, which Bush presided over some of. Bush apologists have tried to make an end run out of this, saying that declining revenues due to a briefly sour economy were responsible. They've also pointed out that the Clinton surpluses occurred even though federal tax cuts were passed in 1997, an apparent argument for supply-side policies.
That's fair enough, up to a point. But by 2001-02, the federal government was in the red again, and that continued year after year until the aforementioned $455 billion deficit was reached. How did this happen?
Bush spent the first months of his presidency pushing tax bonanzas, mainly for his rich friends, through the Congress, along with scraps from the rich man's table for the rest of us, amounting to $300 per person. His economic plan basically rolled back the relatively modest Clinton tax increases on the wealthy, passed by the narrowest of margins in 1993.
Students of fiscal policy know that it's anything but simple, but a few policy effects during this administration seem clear. It didn't take long to turn surpluses into deficits, and arguments that this isn't related to tax policy are, at the very least, unconvincing.
Then, after 9-11, Bush the "decider" decided to take the country to war(s). The first one, in Afghanistan, seemed and still seems like a defensible action, despite the toll on the Afghan people. The second, the March 2003 invasion of Iraq, was in hindsight clearly elective. Aside from being an act of aggression, it turned out to be one of the most expensive mistakes a U.S. administration has ever made.
According to a July 2008 update, military operations alone in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost $872.6 billion. Some $661.1 billion of that was for ops in Iraq. Source: Congressional Research Service data.
Even conservatives need to put this into perspective. Would Winston Churchill have held fast to big tax cuts for the wealthy during an expensive war, and even have audaciously pushed for more such cuts?
George W. Bush did. And in so doing, the U.S. was set up, and knocked down like bowling pins, for the $1.2 trillion annual deficit we now face. Now tell me that, as a "president," this buffoon didn't suck great big green ones, with warts on them. His decisions were consistently the worst that could have been made, and yet he stubbornly continues to defend them. I don't think future generations will find his defense convincing.
Manifesto Joe is an underground writer living in Texas. Check out his blog at Manifesto Joe's Texas Blues.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
Iraqi Shoe-Throwing Journalist Speaks For A Lot Of Us
I'm not sure what the specific grievance was that motivated an Iraqi journalist to throw two shoes at George W. Bush during a news conference in Baghdad. Throwing shoes at someone is a considered a supreme insult in the Middle East.
But I do know this: if I could speak to that Iraqi journalist, I'd tell him that I share his contempt for Bush.
Indeed, I wish those shoes had hit Bush squarely in the middle of his smirking face.
After all, Bush now has only a few weeks left in office. Bush will leave the White House without ever having faced any consequences whatsoever for his reckless, illegal, immoral invasion of Iraq.
Throughout history, other world leaders have faced serious consequences for comparable crimes. They've faced international court tribunals. They've been tried in The Hague. They've gone to jail. In some cases, they've even faced the firing squad.
But thanks to the spineless, wimpy Democrats, Bush will apparently never face any consequences for the Iraq War, a $3 trillion fiasco that has resulted in the deaths of over 1 million men, women and children.
No, Bush will any face any consequences for the Iraq horror that he unleashed. He'll never be arrested. He'll never be tried. He'll never face justice.
Indeed (like all ex-presidents) Bush can look forward to a nice, cushy, lucrative career after the White House. Presidents generally land multi-million-dollar book deals (and thanks to ghost writers, they don't even have to bother to write their books).
And ex-presidents can generally command enormous multi-million-dollar fees on the lecture circuit. (Note that although most of America despises Bush, there are still plenty of Kool-Aid-drinking Bush cultists who will glad shell out money to hear him speak).
So like Jack the Ripper, Bush is a monster with blood on his hands who is going to get off scot-free and never face any repercussions for his crimes.
Like I said, the shoe-throwing Iraqi journalist speaks for a lot of us in his contempt for Bush.
Monday, November 10, 2008
Poll: Bush Less Popular Than Nixon In Final Days
With 71 days left in office, President Bush is less popular than President Nixon was at the time of his resignation, according to data released Monday by CNN and Opinion Research Corporation.
The new poll, taken Thursday through Sunday, showed an approval rating of 24 percent and a disapproval rating of 76 percent.
CNN released a chart showing presidential "disapproval" ratings in CNN or Gallup polls for each president dating back to Harry Truman. This list shows the percentage of Americans who disapproved of the way each president was handling his job.
Thursday, August 07, 2008
No President Has Ever Handed Off A Greater Mess To His Successor
When Bill Clinton handed off the keys to the White House to George W. Bush in 2001, the nation was in good shape, having enjoyed eight years of peace and prosperity. America was enjoying its first budget surplus in three decades. The economy was healthy. The U.S. Constitution was still intact. The dollar was strong and was still the world's reserve currency of choice. Gas was $1.20 a gallon.
However, Bush's successor won't be so lucky. In fact, no president has ever handed off a great mess to his successor in U.S. history.
In fact, I pity the next president. Bush has dug America into a hole so deep, that a lot of the titanic problems he's gotten us into will be pretty much impossible to solve.
Take America's out-of-control, gigantic budget deficits, for example. The next president will inherit a record $482 billion deficit in 2009. And actually, that's a conservative estimate by the White House (which misleadingly isn't including the massive additional costs of the Iraq War in its budget forecasts).
Speaking of the Iraq War, no president has ever left his successor a single bigger ongoing crisis. There is no real solution to this ongoing $3 trillion fiasco of a war. In fact, Bush's only "solution" has been to simply drag out this war long enough to hand it off to his successor. And the Afghanistan War is another ongoing fiasco with no end in sight.
Then, there's America's deteriorating economy. When Bush tried his hand in the private sector years ago, he managed to drive all three companies he had a hand in into the ground. Now, he's done pretty much the same thing to America itself.
The economy today is a horrendous mess, with 3.2 million manufacturing jobs lost since 2001. The ongoing subprime mortgage crisis is a black hole of doom and gloom with no end in sight. Serious financial commentators are starting to speak of a new 1930s style Great Depression. Some 2 million Americans stand to lose their homes in the coming years.
America's ability to get things around the world accomplished has been seriously diminished under Bush. In fact, Bush's successor will inherit a nation that is now widely feared and hated around the world. Once, when U.S. presidents used to talk to other nations about the need to respect human rights, America's words carried great weight. Now, such lectures are simply laughed at and ignored.
Along with our lost moral authority, America's clout on the international stage has been vastly weakened under Bush. For a start, our military (which has been severely battered in the Iraq fiasco) is in terrible shape.
And the dollar (which was a principal lever of U.S. power for decades) is a joke these days. The dollar continues to plummet in value---a trend which is certain to continue as America's creditor nations get increasingly spooked by out-of-control U.S. deficits.
Clearly, America is a totally different nation than the one that Bush inherited when he assumed power in 2001.
Seven short years ago, the American Dream was still alive. America was still a "Can Do" nation. We still had the ability to get things done.
Now, in addition to being broke, most Americans are deeply cynical and pessimistic. Even if the next president can do something about our financial crisis, he's going to find it real tough to restore the faith that many of us have lost in America during the Bush nightmare years.
In short, it will take decades for America to recover from the Bush years. The enormous problems we face today will simply be too great for the next president to solve, no matter what course of action he takes. All we can hope for is that the next president can stop the rot.
Thursday, July 03, 2008
Speaking Of The Worst Ever...
Seven years into the fiasco of the Bush Administration, everyone these days (outside of the hard-core, cult-like 25-percent base) now agrees that Bush is our Worst President Ever.
Speaking of "The Worst Ever" and cult-like bases, I got to wondering: What is the worst movie ever made?
This is a question open to debate. But I think a good candidate would have to be The Beast of Yucca Flats, a bizarre, incoherent 1961 horror movie directed by Coleman Francis that many "bad film" buffs regard as even more abysmal than Ed Wood's notorious, 1959 film, Plan 9 From Outer Space.
Saturday, June 14, 2008
Deliver Us From Evil
Whenever I think about what George W. Bush and the NeoCons have done to America over the past seven years, I always think of this scene from Deliverance. Outside of Bush's rich and powerful cronies, we've all been screwed in Bush's America. Just as in Deliverance, I hope we can eventually kill off the NeoCon monster and bury it deep in the woods.
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Americans Want Bush Impeached Far More Than They Ever Supported Clinton Impeachment
When Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) introduced articles of impeachment against George W. Bush on Monday, he drew ridicule from Republicans, apathy from most Democrats, and silence from the mainstream media.
However, polls show that Americans want Bush impeached far more than they ever supported the impeachment of Bill Clinton in 1998.
In 1998, when the media was in a feeding frenzy over Clinton's impeachment, polls consistently showed that Americans opposed impeachment. Not only that, but Clinton's approval rating actually increased during the impeachment proceedings. For example, on Dec. 20, 1998, Clinton's approval rating climbed to 73 percent (a higher approval rating than Ronald Reagan ever enjoyed).
An Aug. 17, 1998 ABC News poll is typical of that era. That poll showed that American opposed impeachment by a wide margin of 69 percent to 25 percent.
Indeed, that same poll showed that Americans were sick and tired of the media hoopla over Monica Lewinsky. By a margin of 69 percent to 29 percent, Americans said the investigation of Clinton should end immediately.
By contrast, today Americans do support the impeachment of George W. Bush. And yet the mainstream media ignores this story and most Democrats refuse to take any action.
For example, an ongoing MSNBC "Live Vote" online poll shows that 89 percent of Americans support Bush's impeachment. The poll has drawn over 686,000 responses thus far.
While other polls show lower numbers in favor of impeachment, it's still clear that far more Americans want Bush impeached than they ever supported Clinton's impeachment.
And unlike Clinton (who enjoyed high approval ratings during his impeachment) Bush is clearly despised by most Americans these days. Bush's approval rating remains in the toilet (falling to as low as 25 percent in a recent CBS poll).
Thursday, June 05, 2008
Is The U.S. Compiling A Secret List Of Citizens To Detain Under Martial Law?
"The truth is yes--—you do have these standby provisions, and the plans are here...whereby you could, in the name of stopping terrorism, evoke the military and arrest Americans and put them in detention camps."
---Late Democratic Congressman Henry B. Gonzalez
I heard about this chilling Radar magazine article on Mike Malloy's radio show tonight. The article notes that plans for martial law in the event of a national emergency may already be in place in the U.S. And what, you might ask, could constitute a "national emergency"? As the article notes, "according to one news report, even 'national opposition to U.S. military invasion abroad' could be a trigger."
Something to think about now that George W. Bush appears to be gearing up to attack Iran.
Is all of this rather tin-foil-hat-like? Perhaps, but after eight years of Bush, I would put nothing past this White House.
Here's the Radar magazine article:
In the spring of 2007, a retired senior official in the U.S. Justice Department sat before Congress and told a story so odd and ominous, it could have sprung from the pages of a pulp political thriller. It was about a principled bureaucrat struggling to protect his country from a highly classified program with sinister implications. Rife with high drama, it included a car chase through the streets of Washington, D.C., and a tense meeting at the White House, where the president's henchmen made the bureaucrat so nervous that he demanded a neutral witness be present.
The bureaucrat was James Comey, John Ashcroft's second-in-command at the Department of Justice during Bush's first term. Comey had been a loyal political foot soldier of the Republican Party for many years. Yet in his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, he described how he had grown increasingly uneasy reviewing the Bush administration's various domestic surveillance and spying programs. Much of his testimony centered on an operation so clandestine he wasn't allowed to name it or even describe what it did. He did say, however, that he and Ashcroft had discussed the program in March 2004, trying to decide whether it was legal under federal statutes. Shortly before the certification deadline, Ashcroft fell ill with pancreatitis, making Comey acting attorney general, and Comey opted not to certify the program. When he communicated his decision to the White House, Bush's men told him, in so many words, to take his concerns and stuff them in an undisclosed location.
Comey refused to knuckle under, and the dispute came to a head on the cold night of March 10, 2004, hours before the program's authorization was to expire. At the time, Ashcroft was in intensive care at George Washington Hospital following emergency surgery. Apparently, at the behest of President Bush himself, the White House tried, in Comey's words, "to take advantage of a very sick man," sending Chief of Staff Andrew Card and then–White House counsel Alberto Gonzales on a mission to Ashcroft's sickroom to persuade the heavily doped attorney general to override his deputy. Apprised of their mission, Comey, accompanied by a full security detail, jumped in his car, raced through the streets of the capital, lights blazing, and "literally ran" up the hospital stairs to beat them there.
Minutes later, Gonzales and Card arrived with an envelope filled with the requisite forms. Ashcroft, even in his stupor, did not fall for their heavy-handed ploy. "I'm not the attorney general," Ashcroft told Bush's men. "There"—he pointed weakly to Comey—"is the attorney general." Gonzales and Card were furious, departing without even acknowledging Comey's presence in the room. The following day, the classified domestic spying program that Comey found so disturbing went forward at the demand of the White House—"without a signature from the Department of Justice attesting as to its legality," he testified.
What was the mysterious program that had so alarmed Comey? Political blogs buzzed for weeks with speculation. Though Comey testified that the program was subsequently readjusted to satisfy his concerns, one can't help wondering whether the unspecified alteration would satisfy constitutional experts, or even average citizens. Faced with push-back from his bosses at the White House, did he simply relent and accept a token concession? Two months after Comey's testimony to Congress, the New York Times reported a tantalizing detail: The program that prompted him "to threaten resignation involved computer searches through massive electronic databases." The larger mystery remained intact, however. "It is not known precisely why searching the databases, or data mining, raised such a furious legal debate," the article conceded.
Another clue came from a rather unexpected source: President Bush himself. Addressing the nation from the Oval Office in 2005 after the first disclosures of the NSA's warrantless electronic surveillance became public, Bush insisted that the spying program in question was reviewed "every 45 days" as part of planning to assess threats to "the continuity of our government."
Few Americans—professional journalists included—know anything about so-called Continuity of Government (COG) programs, so it's no surprise that the president's passing reference received almost no attention. COG resides in a nebulous legal realm, encompassing national emergency plans that would trigger the takeover of the country by extra-constitutional forces—and effectively suspend the republic. In short, it's a road map for martial law.
Saturday, May 31, 2008
WSJ Bizarrely Claims Surge's "Success" Means Troops Must Stay
In its lead editorial Friday, The Wall Street Journal took a swipe at Barack Obama for calling for a withdrawal of American troops from the fiasco in Iraq. That much was predictable from this right-wing rag. But what's bizarre was the Journal's reason for opposing the withdrawal of our troops: the "success" of the surge.
Since it was bought by Rupert Murdoch, the Journal has increasingly begun to sound like an unhinged right-wing blog---fanatical in its support of George W. Bush and its foaming-at-the-mouth hatred of Democrats. And like the lunatic fringe blogs MichelleMalkin.com and Little Green Footballs, the Journal is increasingly disconnected from reality.
On Friday, the Journal predictably took aim at Scott McClellan, along with the rest of the Great GOP Noise Machine. In the middle of an editorial bashing McClellan, the Journal paused to take a shot at Obama:
"Mr. Obama has staked out a position for immediate troop withdrawal that looks increasingly untenable amid the success of the "surge" and improving security in Baghdad and Basra."
Let me see if I understand this correctly: the surge is a "success" and, as a result, this means our troops can't be brought home? Then, exactly, when can Americans look forward to our troops coming home and the end of this bloody fiasco of a war?
The Journal follows the same sort of infantile "heads I win, tails you lose" logic that the NeoCons use so often these days. If horrible violence continues in Iraq, the Right-Wing demands that our troops stay there. But if violence declines, this also means our troops must stay in Iraq.
In any case, it's highly debatable whether the surge has worked at all. And as Middle East experts like Nir Rosen have repeatedly reminded us, the recent decline in violence has nothing to do with the increase in troops announced by Bush in January.
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
McClellan Reports Bush Said, "I Honestly Don't Remember Whether I Tried (Cocaine) Or Not"
Scott McClellan has raised eyebrows with his new book, which says George W. Bush misled the nation into an unnecessary war in Iraq. Note that this isn't a left-wing blogger making this claim---it's none other than the former White House press secretary.
Among the revelations in McClellan's book, What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception, due out Monday, is a conversation that he reports on the topic of cocaine use, in 1999 when it briefly became a campaign issue, much to Bush's annoyance.
"'The media won't let go of these ridiculous cocaine rumors,' I heard Bush say. 'You know, the truth is I honestly don't remember whether I tried it or not. We had some pretty wild parties back in the day, and I just don't remember.'"
AJC.com reports McClellan writes that he was mystified by Bush's comments.
"I remember thinking to myself, How can that be?" McClellan wrote. "How can someone simply not remember whether or not they used an illegal substance like cocaine? It didn't make a lot of sense."
Read more here.
Thursday, April 24, 2008
Despite Record Low Poll Numbers, Bush Still Bullies Wimpy Democrats
George W. Bush is one of the most unpopular presidents ever. He has record low poll numbers. He is a lame-duck president.
Given his seemingly weak position, how does Bush continue to bully the Democrats? Good question.
The fact is, these days, Bush is actually less compromising than ever. And the wimpy Democrats continue to roll over for Bush.
Take the looming showdown on Capitol Hill over Bush's war funding. As the Associated Press pointed out, Bush has promised to veto any bill that exceeds his pending $108 billion request for war funding.
This is actually a tougher line than Bush took last spring, when he accepted $17 billion in domestic funding as part of a $120 billion war funding measure, AP notes.
The extra spending the Democrats have proposed includes $12.7 billion in funding to extend unemployment benefits. Bush has also signaled he'll oppose increased funding for GI Bill benefits for veterans.
So not only does Bush expect the Democrats to rubberstamp his war funds request, he's not even willing to compromise on the spending bill this time around.
AP notes that the GOP is actually eager to "battle with Democrats over add-ons to the war funding bill." So not only is Bush bullying Democrats, but his fellow Republicans continue to solidly support him as though he were enjoying robust approval ratings.
How can the clout of an unpopular lame duck like Bush actually be rising these days? The only reason I can come up with is that the Democrats have shown themselves to be such pushovers, that Bush knows he can get away with bullying them. If there's anything that emboldens a bully, it is wimpy behavior.
Saturday, April 05, 2008
White House Yawns At MLK Anniversary
Friday was a day that the world remembered the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., who was killed 40 years ago in Memphis. Hillary Clinton and John McCain spoke to audiences in Memphis. In Chicago, Barack Obama spoke about King's legacy.
While the world commemorated King's achievements, the 40th anniversary seemed to draw nothing more than a big yawn at the White House. George W. Bush met with the prime minister of Romania. The only comment the White House had on the MLK anniversary was a short, bland, generic statement on the White House Web site. By contrast, the statement for something called "National Tartan Day" was actually much lengthier than the White House statement about King.
It's clear at this point that Bush can't even be bothered to go through the motions of acting like he cares about African-Americans. (Actually, this was apparent to many Americans long before Kanye West's "George Bush doesn't care about black people" remark during a Hurricane Katrina benefit concert).
Bush has long shown complete and utter contempt for civil rights. In this regard, he's following in the Bush family footsteps. (Recall how his father, George H.W. Bush, campaigned against the 1964 Civil Rights Act).
During the 2000 campaign, George W. Bush made it a point to stop by Bob Jones University, where he praised the officials at that school (which incredibly still had a ban on interracial dating). This, no doubt, played real well to the "I don't want my white daughter dating a Negro" racist crowd---but the rest of us were shocked and appalled.
Indeed, in the Bush era, we've seen nothing less than the return of Jim Crow. How else to explain things like the 2000 election, in which record numbers of black voters were disenfranchised. As Greg Palast has documented, about one million black voters didn't count in the 2000 presidential election.
Against this backdrop, it shouldn't really be surprising that the 40th anniversary of King's assassination drew nothing more than a big yawn at the White House.
Wednesday, April 02, 2008
The More Things Change In Iraq, The More They Stay The Same
If you like the way things are going in Iraq, then you'll be thrilled by what our continued presence there will bring. More of the same. Six days, six months, six years--more of the same.
Violence will continue. Some months, killings will be up. Some months, down. Attacks on U.S. troops and installations will continue. Some days, we'll be spared a single casualty. Some days, two or three Americans will die.
Our half-billion-dollar embassy in Baghdad's Green Zone will continue to take hits, and an incendiary device could burn the place to the ground because Iraqi workers botched the fire-control system during construction. On purpose? Who's to say?
Can we look forward to a reduction in the strife between the Shiites and Sunnis? Truces will be declared and broken. Some months, killings will be up. Some months, they'll be down. Same old, same old. Religious strife has been part of the fabric of Iraqi civilization since it was called Mesopotamia. The Ottoman Empire couldn't pacify the region in the hundreds of years of trying. The British Empire had little better luck in the 1900s, despite an effort that killed 100,000 of its troops. Nation building has a hard go of it in Iraq.
Iraq's oil fields? Production is improving. It's a bit greater than it was prior to our invasion. Can it be sustained? Maybe--if we can keep it a secret that oil is flammable.
A workable Iraqi government? Sure, when the Shiites and Sunnis learn to love each other.
When a new president is elected this November, what will change in the war that's costing the United States $200,000 a minute? Very little, be our new leader Republican or Democrat. We're so deeply entwined in the pitiful nation of Iraq and in the region as a whole that massive policy change isn't possible. Troops will be shuffled in and shuffled out. Plans will be made and discarded. Generals will come and go. And we'll remain in Iraq.
And remain ... and remain ... and remain.
Friday, March 28, 2008
Media's Swooning Over McCain Echoes MSM's Love Affair With Bush In 2000
In case you haven't heard, it's now official: John McCain is the darling of the mainstream media. And as reporters swoon over McCain, some of us are experiencing deja vu.
Where have we seen this sort of fawning MSM coverage before? Oh, that's right: it was in the 2000 campaign, when the MSM fell in love with George W. Bush.
Although today I'm sure they'd like to forget it ever happened, the fact is, reporters fawned over Bush in 2000. And while this love affair was going on, the media was sharpening its claws to attack Al Gore over GOP-invented bogus controversies like "I invented the Internet."
As Al Franken pointed out in Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them, the media just plain didn't like Gore:
"Somewhere along the line, the pack decided that Al Gore was a sanctimonious, graspy exaggerator running against a likeable if dim-witted goof-off."
As Franken notes, the widely respected Pew Charitable Trusts foundation documented that the tone of the media coverage was decidedly anti-Gore and pro-Bush during the campaign.
As Pew notes, a comprehensive survey of 1,149 news stories from 17 leading news sources in 2000 showed a "positive" slant in 24 percent of the stories about Bush (versus only 13 percent for Gore). By contrast, the "negative" slant was 56 percent for Gore versus 49 percent for Bush.
And now a MSM love affair for a GOP candidate is happening all over again. As Gabler points out, "reporters routinely attach 'maverick,' 'straight talker' and 'patriot' to (McCain) like Homeric epithets." As Chris Matthews of MSNBC put it, the media is now "McCain's base."
Thursday, March 20, 2008
Why Ridding The World of Saddam Didn't Justify The Iraq War
Five years after the start of the disastrous Iraq War, there remains one fig leaf that the remaining war supporters and other hopeful Americans can still hide behind these days. After all, these fig-leaf wearers constantly remind us, we did get rid of Saddam Hussein, right?
So despite the fact that the war is a $3 trillion fiasco that has slaughtered a million people, the fig-leaf wearers think they can still find a silver lining in this disaster by reminding all of us that, after all, Saddam is gone.
I am not defending Saddam. But on the other hand, I think those who proclaimed Saddam to be a monstrous tyrant who was the "new Hitler" need to ask themselves a few questions:
1. First of all, I find it incredible that any Americans can still smugly proclaim that they know exactly what was going on in Iraq before the U.S. invaded. Saddam may well have been an evil tyrant---but the fact is, America was totally in the dark about Iraq. Everything we were told about Iraq turned out to be a crock of sh*t (from the non-existent WMDs to Saddam's non-existent ties to 9/11 to the "fact" that Iraqis would greet us as liberators).
All lies. All bullsh*t. And yet, incredibly, there are those fig-leaf wearers who still, to this day, arrogantly proclaim that they know exactly what Saddam was up to---and that it consisted of horrific crimes that murdered millions of people. Keep in mind that these are the same people who smugly proclaimed that Saddam had WMDs---and indeed, used that issue as a club to beat the heads of anyone who dared question George W. Bush's case for war in 2003.
I'm astonished at how smug and arrogant many of these people are. They've been proven wrong time and time again on everything to do with Iraq. And yet, when they make sweeping statements about Iraq and Saddam's crimes, you'll never find anyone who is more sure of themselves.
One wonders: where, exactly, are they getting this info about Saddam's murder of "millions"? The reality is, it's likely largely coming from the same disgruntled anti-Baathist Iraqi exiles who were peddling the same fairy tales about Saddam having WMDs. Between Bush's hysterical, over-the-top denunciations of Saddam, and these misinformed exiles (many of whom hadn't actually lived in Iraq for many years), it's no wonder that Americans came to believe that Saddam was the next Hitler.
2. Speaking of Saddam's murder of "millions": maybe it's true. I don't claim to know one way or another. But those who condemn Saddam weaken their credibility by constantly citing wildly different figures. I've seen some authors claim the death toll was in the hundreds of thousands. Other cite figures in excess of millions dead.
I find all this interesting. After all, the U.S. has little idea of the carnage that has taken place right under our noses during our occupation of Iraq. As the Pentagon has repeatedly put it, the U.S. military "doesn't do body counts." And yet, even though we have no idea of how many have died in our occupation of Iraq, there are fig-leaf wearers who make sweeping proclamations about the "millions" that Saddam murdered many years ago.
Actually, America could have bolstered its credibility and its case for invading Iraq if it had worked to ensure that Saddam got a fair trial. Such a trial could have presented to the world a detailed case for Saddam's crimes. It would have also given survivors of Saddam's regime their day in court.
Of course, nothing of the sort happened. Saddam's trial was a travesty. Basically, we handed him over to his political enemies for a kangaroo trial that mocked the very idea of justice. Saddam's lawyers couldn't even do their job without worrying about getting a bullet in the head (and indeed, several were gunned down during the trial).
There was no detailed examination of the "millions" that Saddam murdered during the trial. One wonders: why not? If we had solid evidence of Saddam murdering millions, then why not try him for that? In the end, Saddam was convicted for the killing of 148 people in 1982 who were reportedly connected to an assassination attempt.
Watching the trial proceedings, I couldn't help but think that the whole event was a mockery of justice. It seems to me that the U.S. just wanted to quickly get the trial over with and hang Saddam as soon as possible. Which begs the question: why? What was the rush? If Saddam was indeed the new Hitler, why didn't the trial take a deeper look at his past crimes?
Call me cynical, but I can't help but wonder if the U.S. just didn't want Saddam dead as quickly as possible before he started talking about his past lengthy, cozy ties to the U.S. Which brings me to another point:
3. Did the U.S. really ever have a leg to stand on in condemning Saddam? Of course, the vast majority of Americans will say yes. But I wonder. If Saddam did indeed murder millions, there is still the uncomfortable fact that the U.S. worked closely with Saddam for decades. If Saddam was indeed the New Hitler, what does that make America?
Most Americans are completely in the dark when it comes to knowledge about how America worked closely with Saddam.
In fact, the U.S. had a cozy relationship with Saddam that lasted for decades. How many Americans are aware that, in 1959, the CIA hired the then-22-year-old Saddam to carry out a plot to assassinate the Iraqi prime minister, General Abd al-Karim Qasim? (Saddam's assassination attempt failed when he fired too soon and he only wound up killing Qasim's driver).
Bush has long condemned Saddam for crimes such as gassing the Kurds in the town of Halabjah in 1988. But how many Americans know that the U.S. in fact sold materials to Saddam for creating biological and chemical weapons in the 1980s?
As Craig Unger reported in his 2004 book, House of Bush, House of Saud:
"Beginning in 1984, the Centers for Disease Control began providing Saddam's Iraq with biological materials--including viruses, retroviruses, bacteria, fungi, and even tissue that was infected with bubonic plague."
Unger noted that the latter exchange may have been initiated in the spirit of an "innocent" transfer of scientific information. But as he points out: "It is not difficult to argue against giving bubonic-plague-infected tissues to Saddam Hussein."
Unger quotes former Senate investigator James Tuite: "We were freely exchanging pathogenic materials with a country that we knew had an active biological warfare program."
But don't try to tell any of this to the fig-leaf wearers. The fact is, America has become an infantile culture. We're deeply ignorant about the rest of the world. And we tend to see the world in simplistic black-and-white/good-versus-evil terms (with, of course, the U.S. always being the "good guys").
All the fig-leaf wearers will permit themselves to hear is that Saddam was the next Hitler. End of story. The vast majority of Americans don't want to hear that maybe, just maybe, the story is a little more complex than that. Which leads me to my final point:
4. It's clear that America never really understood Iraq. We never bothered to learn a thing about the Iraqi people, their language and their culture. We were completely clueless and in the dark. Hell, most Americans had no clue that our own government had been working, hand-in-glove, with Saddam for decades.
Instead, on the eve of the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, Americans were blissfully ignorant and eagerly lapping up the Fox News/corporate media line: "Saddam is the new Hitler and America needs to get rid of him. If we do this, Iraqis will greet us with flowers and everyone will live happily ever after."
Five years later, it's clear that everything we were told about Saddam (and Iraq in general) back in those heady days in 2003 was a f*cking lie. And by deluding ourselves by building up this cartoonish image of Saddam-as-the-new-Hitler, we were completely in the dark about the oncoming freight train of disaster we were about to encounter.
The fact is, Saddam was no Hitler. He was a dime-a-dozen petty tyrant of a poor, Third World nation. He posed absolutely no threat to the U.S. (Indeed, if he did somehow pose a threat to America, then the real question wasn't whether to invade Iraq---it should have been this: what, exactly, had U.S. taxpayers been getting in return for the trillions of dollars that we've pumped into the Pentagon over the years? We've lavished more on military spending than the rest of the world combined---and yet we were not safe from Iraq, a poor Third World nation with no industry that was crippled by crushing sanctions?)
One thing I'd like the fig-leaf wearers to explain to me is this: how, exactly, was Saddam any more evil than the dozens of other petty dictators around the world (many of whom America has also supported over the years).
For that matter, how was Saddam more evil than, say, the leaders of Saudi Arabia? The latter, after all, run one of the world's most repressive dictatorships. They routinely torture and murder their opponents. (Oh, and Saudi Arabia is also the beating heart of Islamic radicalism worldwide). And yet, instead of invading that nation, Bush happily hobnobs with their leaders and even invites them out to the ranch for barbecue.
One final thing I'd like the fig-leaf wearers to explain to me is this: if Saddam was so evil, then why is it that there was never a single recorded instance of a suicide bomber in Iraq before 2003? And why did Saddam's convoys never face roadside bombs?
For that matter, why, exactly has the U.S. faced a ferocious insurgency now for the past five years? If Saddam was the next Hitler and he was so evil, then why weren't we greeted as liberators in the first place?
Yes, these are troubling questions. And they are questions that the fig-leaf wearers (and most Americans) will never bother to answer. Probably because if we answer these questions, it'll lead us to even more troubling questions that we as a nation would simply rather not think about. So in the time-honored American tradition of sanitizing our own history, we'll simply sweep these troubling questions under the rug and not give them any further thought.
Saturday, March 08, 2008
MSM Avoids Using Word "Torture" In Coverage of Bush Waterboarding Ban Veto
Waterboarding is torture. Period. As John McCain described it at an Iowa campaign stop last October, waterboarding is a "horrible torture technique" that is a "terrible and odious practice and should never be condoned in the U.S." His words are echoed by human rights groups and civil liberties advocates worldwide.
George W. Bush disagrees. A White House spokesman said Bush will veto legislation on Saturday banning U.S. intelligence agents from using waterboarding.
In its coverage of this development, the mainstream media continues to avoid calling waterboarding "torture."
For example, in its coverage of the Bush veto, the Associated Press described waterboarding as a "harsh interrogation method." The word "torture" was absent from the AP report.
In its report on the Bush veto, Reuters also avoided mentioning using the word "torture" even once in its main article, instead referring to waterboarding as a "controversial interrogation method."
The AP and Reuters articles echo the language of the Bush administration itself, which has avoided describing waterboarding as torture, and instead has referred to it as an "enhanced interrogation technique."
Instead of using the White House's bland terminology, AP, Reuters, and other MSM outlets should call Bush's despicable action what it really is: a veto of an anti-torture bill.
Wednesday, March 05, 2008
Bush Officials: Congress Irrelevant On Iraq
The following article, from today's Army Times newspaper, neatly sums up the Bush administration's "screw you" attitude toward working with Congress. One can only hope that this contempt toward Congress will finally give the Democrats the backbone to put the issue of impeachment back on the table:
Bush Officials: Congress Irrelevant On Iraq
By William H. McMichael
The Bush administration says the 2002 congressional authorization to go to war in Iraq gives it the authority to conduct combat operations in Iraq and negotiate far-reaching agreements with the current Iraqi government without consulting Congress.
The assertion, jointly made Tuesday by U.S. Ambassador David Satterfield and Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Mary Beth Long, drew an incredulous reaction from Democrats on a Joint House committee during a hearing on future U.S. commitments to Iraq.
"It's the view of the administration that as long as there’s trouble in Iraq that you have authorization of this Congress to continue there in perpetuity and define trouble as you desire?" asked Rep. Gary Ackerman, D-N.Y.
"We have authorization to defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq," Satterfield replied. "The situation in Iraq continues to present a threat to the United States."
The Bush administration also feels it does not need to seek the authorization of Congress to ratify two pending agreements with Iraq: a "Strategic Framework" that would govern "normalized" relations with the U.S., and a Status of Forces Agreement that would govern the "authorities and protections" of U.S. troops in Iraq past Dec. 31, the expiration of a U.N. resolution that the administration says authorizes their presence.
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Bush Has Been Selling Iraq War For 6 Years, But Americans Still Aren't Buying
Like a relentless salesman who won't take no for an answer, George W. Bush has been peddling the Iraq War for six years now. And the American people are still steadfastly refusing to buy Bush's case for war.
Bush and his Kool-Aid drinking followers seem genuinely baffled and hurt that the American people want the war ended now.
After all, they argue, in increasingly shrill tones, if we leave Iraq, then Al Qaeda will "win," and America will surely be hit with another 9/11 terrorist attack.
Pretty strong words. And yet they fail to sway the American people.
In fact, the American people simply don't believe Bush's bullsh*t about Iraq. They want the war ended now. They want the troops brought home. They're deeply unhappy with Bush's handling of the war. And Bush's approval ratings remain in the toilet.
Bush and his followers point the finger at countless suspects in trying to explain why the Iraq War remains so deeply unpopular with the American people.
It's the media's fault, they say. It's the liberal bloggers' fault. It's the Democrats' fault. It's the fault of the American people (who clearly don't see the threat the nation faces).
Bush has had enormous help in selling his war over the years. The mainstream media, which helped Bush sell the case for invading Iraq in the first place, has now gone to bat for Bush to sell the idea that the surge is a success (despite strong evidence that it's a failure). And even the military (which is supposed to be non-partisan) has stepped up to the plate to help Bush sell the surge.
What Bush and his followers have never grasped is that necessary wars don't have to be sold at all.
If a war is really essential, the American people have shown time and again that they will not only support it, but they will make whatever sacrifices are needed to achieve victory. They'll accept rationing. They'll accept higher taxes. They'll even line up to buy war bonds.
FDR never had to sell the war against the Axis Powers. The American people understood the necessity of World War II.
Back in 2003, Americans briefly were swayed by Bush's argument that we needed to invade Iraq. With the help of the corporate media, Bush hammered away the idea that Iraq had terrifying Weapons of Mass Destruction that posed a mortal threat to America.
At the time, a few rational voices were disputing Bush's case for war. We rejected the silly idea that a small, isolated Third World desert nation with no industry could somehow pose a threat to America. We even rejected the term "Weapons of Mass Destruction," which is a term that belongs in comic books, not in the real world.
Indeed, in the build-up to war, some of us were arguing that the real question wasn't whether the nation should invade Iraq. Instead, we were wondering what, exactly, American taxpayers had been getting in return for the trillions of dollars we'd sunk into the Pentagon money pit over the decades.
The Pentagon, apparently, couldn't protect America even though our nation spent more on defense than the rest of the world combined. What was wrong with this picture?
Fast-forward five years later and America is totally sick and tired of Bush's Iraq disaster. Not only is the Bush legacy in the toilet, but the Republican Party itself has been seriously wounded by the fiasco of the Bush years.
At this point, the only people who want the Iraq War to continue are Bush and his followers, and Al Qaeda. Although the MSM has done a poor job of reporting it, the fact is that U.S. intelligence has long believed that Al Qaeda wants the U.S. military to remain in Iraq.
It's no mystery why Al Qaeda wants the war to continue. After all, the Iraq War has been a fantastic boon to Al Qaeda. The photos from Abu Ghraib alone have done wonders for Al Qaeda recruitment. Countless young Muslim men have been radicalized by their anger over the bloodshed in Iraq.
Before the Iraq War, Bin Laden was regarded as an embarrassment to many moderate Muslims around the world. But since 2003, Bin Laden's stature and prestige has risen sharply in much of the Muslim world.
Bush's original reason for invading Iraq (the non-existent WMDs) turned out to be a fraud. Since then, Bush has tried to retroactively justify his war by coming up with numerous other reasons why the war was necessary.
The most contemptible and blatant lie Bush has peddled has been his insistence that the Iraq War is somehow connected to the 9/11 attacks and that U.S. withdrawal will lead to more such attacks.
Given such fear-mongering, it's quite remarkable that the American people continue to hold Bush in such low esteem. In effect, we the people are calling Bush a liar.
If the Iraq War was really necessary, Bush wouldn't need to lift a finger to sell it. Instead, selling the war has consumed his presidency.
If there's a silver lining to all this, it's that Iraq so consumed Bush that he was unable to spend as much time foisting his extreme radical right corporatist agenda on the American people.
Tuesday, February 05, 2008
Bush Budget Starves Vital Programs While Embracing Wasteful Spending
George W. Bush proposed a record $3.1 trillion budget on Monday that manages to accomplish two astonishing feats. Not only does his budget produce an eyepopping $410 billion federal deficit (double that of 2007) but it ALSO manages to gut popular domestic programs, ranging from Medicare to clean water grants to homeland security to education spending.
And while important domestic programs are slashed, Bush still finds room in his budget for $70 billion for the never-ending wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. And that figure, as titanic as it is, is a ridiculously low-ball estimate of the real costs that Bush's wars will require in the future, something that even White House aides acknowledge.
There are lots of losers under Bush's budget proposal---and you can bet that none of them are America's rich and powerful. Bush's budget slashes funding for programs for low-income seniors, clean water grants, homeland security grants and poor pregnant women and their children. Education spending also gets cut, by $4 billion.
The winners in Bush's budget are (as always) the rich, as well as corporations. The reckless tax cuts for the rich remain in place (even as the nation's deficits soar into the stratosphere). And the budget continues to provide billions in corporate welfare, disguised in the form of "military spending." The budget raises military spending to inflation-adjusted levels not seen since World War II.
In fact, as NPR pointed out: "If you add up all projected defense-related spending for fiscal 2009 and $515 billion balloons to $750 billion — almost a third of all U.S. federal spending today."
Don't get me wrong: I agree that responsible defense spending is important. But that's something we simply haven't seen under this administration. Remember the $21 billion in cash that the Pentagon managed to lose without a trace in Iraq in 2003?
And this budget does nothing to reign in the corporate welfare in the form of Bush's Medicare Part D program, which has been a cash bonanza for drug corporations. (No surprise there: Bush allowed business lobbyists to create this program, which forbids the federal government from negotiating prices of drugs with the drug companies).
On Monday, Democrats slammed the Bush proposal and promised changes. But it remains to be seen whether the Dems will stand up to Bush for a change. This is something we have yet to see from the gutless and cowardly Dems.
Friday, February 01, 2008
Wikipedia Continues To Sanitize Bush Content
Wikipedia, the massively popular online encyclopedia, claims that its "content must be written from a neutral point of view."
But after comparing Wikipedia's main articles on Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, you could have fooled us. These days, some of Wikipedia's content looks like it was written by Fox News.
For example, Wikipedia's main Bill Clinton article manages to mention every single fringe right-wing nutcase allegation ever made against the 42nd president.
By contrast, the main Wikipedia article on George W. Bush has been carefully sanitized. It clearly aims to present Bush in the most favorable light possible. Frankly, the Bush article looks like a love letter from Karl Rove.
(Note that we're talking about the main, high-profile Wikipedia Clinton and Bush articles---so this is indeed an apples-to-apples comparison).
I realize that Wikipedia offers fluid, dynamic content and is technically open to edits by anyone and everyone. Right-wing bias in articles is open to correction by progressive contributors (and vice-versa).
But it's clear that in the battle to edit the main Clinton and Bush pages, the right-wing contributors are winning (and have been winning for a long time).
For example, the main Wikipedia article on Clinton includes a massive, seven-part "Controversies" section.
By contrast, no "Controversies" section exists in the Bush article (although there is a two-part "Criticism and public perception" section).
One thing that recently caught my eye in the Clinton "Controversies" section was the "Sexual Misconduct Allegations" headline. The section discusses claims of sexual misconduct made by Kathleen Willey and Juanita Broaddrick. The section also includes links to other Wiki articles that discuss the allegations in great detail.
If Wikipedia was free of bias, one might think that the main Bush article would include at least a mention of the Margie Schoedinger sexual assault allegation against Bush.
And just who is Margie Schoedinger?
She was a 38-year-old Texas woman who filed a sexual assault lawsuit against George W. Bush in December 2002.
Oh, and there's one other interesting detail: the next year, Schoedinger was found dead of a gunshot wound.
Let's imagine for one moment if a woman had filed a sexual assault lawsuit against Clinton---and let's say that woman was found shot to death a year later.
Do you think the mainstream media would ignore such a story?
I think we all know goddamn well the answer to that. The fact is, the media would give such a story around-the-clock, saturation coverage that would make the Monica Lewinsky media frenzy look tame by comparison.
But instead, the Schoedinger case was completely ignored by the U.S. media, with the sole exception of the small local Texas newspaper (The Fort Bend Star) that originally reported the story. Her case remains extremely obscure. To this day, very few people have ever heard of her.
Wikipedia gives coverage to unproven sexual allegations in its main Clinton article. But in the main Wikipedia article on Bush, there is zero mention of the Schoedinger case.
I recently got a taste of just how protective Wikipedia is of Bush, when I tried to raise this issue on the site. (Note that I wasn't even trying to edit the main Wikipedia Bush article--I was merely raising the issue in the "Discussion" forum).
I typed a brief post in the forum, raising this issue.
Within 30 seconds, my text was removed from the discussion forum. I then re-entered the post and it was promptly deleted again.
Bear in mind, all I was asking for was equal treatment in Wikipedia's coverage of Bush and Clinton. I certainly wasn't asking for any special treatment, or even (gasp!) a mention of, say, the Valerie Plame case or the Downing Street memo.
Neither issue, of course, gets the slightest mention in the main Bush article. As I mentioned previously, since Wikipedia's content is fluid and dynamic, the situation may have changed by the time you read this. But if that's the case, you can be assured that such content won't survive long on the Wiki articles before it is deleted by Bush supporters.
I can't say that I'm really surprised by Wikipedia's kid-glove, Fox News-like treatment of Bush. It's clear that the Bush worshiping cultists will do anything to protect the image of their hero. Clearly, these people will stop at nothing to sanitize Wikipedia's content on Bush.
In the aftermath of this episode, I guess the only thing that baffles me is how Wikipedia can continue to claim with a straight face to be a reference resource with a "neutral point of view."
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
The Real State Of The Union Address
Saturday, January 19, 2008
Bush's Absurd Tax Rebate Scheme Won't Save Economy
With the titanic cost of the Iraq War fiasco, along with his reckless tax cuts for the wealthy, George W. Bush has driven the U.S. economy off of a cliff.
Now, Bush aims to save the economy with an absurd tax rebate scheme, which will amount to about $140 billion, equal to about 1 percent of U.S. gross domestic product.
It's clear that this rebate scheme will be nothing more than a mere Band-Aid on a bleeding economy that is in deep crisis.
First of all, there's the matter of the nation's disastrous mortgage crisis. It's bad enough that 2 million people could lose their homes. What's equally ominous is that the housing bubble has been the main thing propping up the U.S. economy since Bush took office. Beside those losing their homes, some 44.5 million Americans will watch the value of their homes diminish.
Bear in mind that the "wealth effect" of inflated home values has been the main factor in getting Americans to spend money, powering our consumption-led economy.
The tax rebate of several hundred dollars that most ordinary taxpayers will get under Bush's plan may come in handy for many people who are paying off bills. But it won't save our rotten-to-the-core, faltering economy.
Even worse than the mortgage crisis is the ongoing U.S. deficit crisis that has soared out of control under Bush's watch. The U.S. national debt now stands at a staggering $9 trillion. That amounts to over $30,000 for every man, woman and child in the country.
The national debt is a ticking time bomb that Bush has completely ignored the past seven years. The Iraq War fiasco will add another $2 trillion to the nation's debt.
Bush and the NeoCons have never shown any concern about the deficit. But the East Asian nations that fund America's national debt are increasingly concerned.
Under Bush's watch, the dollar has taken a beating. This has added to the anxiety of nations like China and Japan, which hold trillions of dollars in their central bank reserves. The crisis is a vicious cycle: the more the dollar declines, the more incentive China and Japan have to sell their dollars (which, in turn, will force the dollar's value even lower).
When the dollar melts down in value, America's reign as a superpower will be over. Once upon a time, that seemed like a remote possibility. Under the disastrous Bush administration, it looks like something that could very well happen any day now.
During the brief period in his life when he tried his hand in the private sector, Bush drove all three of his companies into the ground. Despite the fact that his father and grandfather were powerful politicians, Bush was a bust in the private sector (even with his family's powerful connections and wealth).
Now, Bush is on the verge of doing to America what he did to his failed companies in the private sector. And its role in the collapse of America's economy is the main thing future historians will remember about this administration.
It's a crisis that Bush's tax rebate Band-Aid won't fix.
Friday, December 28, 2007
Bush Once Again Refuses To Allow Crisis To Interrupt Vacation
If anything has been predictable in the administration of George W. Bush, it's that Bush loves his European-style month-long vacations.
And when he's vacationing in Crawford, Bush doesn't like to be interrupted, come hell or high water.
And while, around the globe, politicians are scrambling to cope with the world's latest crisis, the stunning assassination of Benazir Bhutto, Bush has once again shown that his leisure time comes first, before any other priority.
It's not the first time that Bush has relaxed in Crawford while a major crisis was unfolding.
Who can forget how a vacationing Bush casually strummed a guitar in 2005 as Hurricane Katrina unleashed its fury in the worst natural disaster in the history of the United States? Who can forget how Bush ignored officials' warnings about how Katrina could breach levees and put lives at risk?
It wasn't the first time that a vacationing Bush has ignored urgent warnings. After all, in the midst of his 5-week vacation immediately preceding the 9/11 attacks, Bush ignored a Presidential Daily Briefing, hand-delivered to him by CIA officials, who flew from Washington to Crawford in August 2001.
The Aug. 6, 2001 PDB, as we now all know, was titled, "Bin Laden determined to strike in U.S." Bush took no action (and indeed, went fishing later that day).
In the turmoil of the past seven years of Bush's presidency, few things in this world have been predictable. However, one thing that has remained predictable like clockwork is that, when crisis strikes, Bush will put his vacation plans ahead of the interests of the nation, and the world.
On Wednesday, Bush arrived in Crawford for the 69th time of his presidency. In all, Bush has spent an incredible 418 days of his presidency in Crawford. In fact, at the current rate, Bush looks to easily beat Ronald Reagan's record as the president who took the most vacation time while in office.
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
Ghosts Of Christmas Present: Waiting To Get On Disability
So you've enjoyed that turkey and dressing, and lingered by the fireplace with family members over a glass of Chardonnay. But if you're a Web addict, you eventually log on and check out what's happening on the blogs. If you drop by this one, I'll be your Jeremiah this Christmas Day, and with a little Dickens added for flavor.
As I write this, there are hundreds of thousands of disabled Americans who are waiting, sometimes for years, to get on Social Security disability. In the era of Bush, the system is no longer funded in a way in which claims can be processed in a reasonable time.
The New York Times recently reported:
Steadily lengthening delays in the resolution of Social Security disability claims have left hundreds of thousands of people in a kind of purgatory, waiting as long as three years for a decision. ...
Some have lost homes, declared bankruptcy or even died, say lawyers representing claimants and officials of the Social Security Administration. ...
"It's been hell," said Belinda Virgil, 44. She waited three years for her hearing in November and is awaiting the outcome. Virgil is tethered to an oxygen tank 24 hours a day and has no home of her own. "I've got no money for Christmas, I move from house to house, and I'm getting really depressed," she said. ...
State agencies initially turn down about two-thirds of the roughly 2.5 million disability applicants each year. But of the more than 575,000 who appeal ... two-thirds eventually win a reversal.
The problem is that there simply aren't enough appeals judges to handle the caseload. The backlog is now 755,000, compared to 311,000 in 2000. (Hey, wasn't that the year Bush was appointed president?)
Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses? Many of these people couldn't survive in either of those settings.
So, what's being done? Not much. The Times continued:
The agency wants to hire at least 150 appeals judges, but the plan has been delayed by the standoff between Congress and the White House over domestic appropriations. Without new hirings, federal officials predict even longer waits ...
... in November, the Democratic-controlled Congress voted a $275 million increase for the agency. But Bush vetoed the bill, calling it profligate. (So, like, he knows that word?)
I'm sure Bush is enjoying his turkey and dressing today. Too bad he's never had to go down to the local mission house to get it.
OK, I'm nearly done playing Jeremiah, and Dickens, too. Merry Christmas -- enjoy the rest of the day, in its true spirit. I, for one, go back to work tomorrow, thankful that I am able to do so. These are grim times for those who are not.
Manifesto Joe is an underground writer living in Texas. Check out his blog at Manifesto Joe's Texas Blues.
Monday, December 10, 2007
Bolton's "Putsch" Conspiracy Theory Outdoes Right-Wing Blogs For Nuttiness
Did you know that there's a big conspiracy under way to undermine our nation and our Commander-In-Chief? The Liberals and other anti-American traitors are in on this conspiracy. So are America's own intelligence agencies.
Sounds pretty wacky, huh?
The sort of thing you'd read on one of the nutcase right-wing blogs.
However, this latest wacky theory didn't emerge from the fringe blogosphere. It came out of the mouth of none other than John Bolton, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
When U.S. intelligence services recently released a report concluding that Iran halted its nuclear arms program in 2003, sane people across the globe breathed a sigh of relief. Many of us felt that maybe, just maybe, this would head off the Bush regime's crazy, reckless march toward yet another bloody fiasco of a war in the Middle East.
However, NeoCons like Bolton are up in arms. Bolton has had a hard-on for war with Iran for years now. He's the sort of Republican who loves a nice, bloody war, as long as he gets to avoid doing any of the actual fighting himself (just as he did during the Vietnam War when he avoided combat by joining the National Guard, just like his buddy George W. Bush).
While the rest of us breathed a sigh of relief over the recent intelligence report, people like Bolton see it all as part of a big Liberal conspiracy.
Bolton, in an interview with Germany's Der Spiegel magazine alleged that the aim of the National Intelligence Estimate, was not to provide the latest intelligence on Iran, but instead to offer "politics disguised as intelligence."
Bolton labeled the report as a "quasi-putsch" by the intelligence agencies.
I used to think that such crazy conspiracy theories were limited to nutcases who write fringe right-wing blogs on the Web. (You know, the sort of blogs that claim that President Clinton once ordered a Mafia style hit on Vince Foster).
But these days, even top GOP figures are embracing the most bizarre and far-out crazy conspiracy theories. These people believe that anyone who dares speak out against their beloved Bush must be part of a giant Liberal conspiracy.
Here's a memo to Bolton and the rest of the nutcase fringe Right. Yes, there was indeed a "putsch" in America---and it occurred in 2000 when Bush and the NeoCons came to power via a massive fraud of an election.
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
In Bush Era, U.S. Has Become A Third-World Country
The signs are all there, beneath the jingoist bluster and superficial prosperity. George W. Babbitt still swaggers on the golf course and talks a great game, but it's getting tougher to make the mortgage payments on his family's $300,000 house. For his commute, the gas-guzzling Hummer has been traded in for a "sensible" Ford Taurus with leather seats.
And then, below, mostly out of sight, are the people who never had it that good, and never will. The ones who have no hope of "retiring." The ones who don't know how they can afford to make their old car pass the emissions test. The ones who would declare bankruptcy but don't know if they can qualify under the tougher new (Republican) laws. The ones who know the best bargains on navy beans and Vienna sausages.
Life in America has always been deodorized excrement for a certain minority among us.
But that minority is growing, and the middle class is feeling the pressure.
George W. Bush isn't solely responsible for U.S. descent into Third-World stagnation. But his policies have festively crowned all the economic royalism that went before him.
Food inflation is running far ahead of "core" inflation, at 4.4% (much higher for staples) compared to about 2%; yes, largely because of factors somewhat out of this administration's control, like fuel/transportation prices and rising demand from developing nations like China. But amid this, our "leaders" have been codifying policies that ever enrich the most fortunate among us, rather than make it easier for struggling people to eat and live halfway decent lives. The burden of living in America -- for health care, for a living wage, for transportation, for education, for anything that elevates people above mere brutish existence, is ever shifted upon those least able to pay.
How has this administration responded to the marginalization of America's working class? With the all the greed and conceit one would expect of economic royalists. Bush is the anti-FDR, even going beyond Reagan on that score. FDR was excoriated as a traitor to his class; no one could ever accuse Bush of that. He has devoted his entire political life to destroying all that FDR did for people who never had a "lock" on the better things in life, like little George always had. But then, what would one expect from a spoiled rich kid who got his childhood kicks killing frogs with strategically inserted firecrackers?
There have been far too many "outrages of the day" to account for all of them, but Citizens for Tax Justice has summed up the irresponsible fiscal policies of the Bush administration thusly, on Sept. 13:
"President George W. Bush has added $3 trillion to the national debt so far, despite inheriting a balanced budget when he took office in 2001. Since then, Congress has been forced to raise the statutory limit on the total amount the federal government is allowed to borrow four times -- in 2002, 2003, 2004, and 2006. Yesterday, the Senate Finance Committee approved legislation to raise the debt limit a fifth time, to an unprecedented $9.815 trillion, to prevent the federal government from defaulting on its debts and being unable to borrow any more. In contrast, when Bush took office, the debt limit was $5.950 trillion -- $3.9 trillion less than the new amount."
This was done in part by foisting a new Reaganomics policy on the country, with big tax cuts for everyone with the ability to pay, and little or nothing for anyone else. And then, obviously, by starting a totally elective foreign war.
What this amounts to is a tax on our futures. And the people who put George W. Bush in office clearly don't intend to be the ones who pay it. Even if things turn a little rough for them, 1930s-style, they can "afford" the rent-a-cops, the political consultants, the local government functionaries, the National Guard units, and if necessary, the brown-shirted goons, to help them keep their "rightful, destined" positions in life.
Does any of this sound familiar? Mexico and many other Third World societies come to mind. I wonder: Will George W. Bush ultimately go down in history as OUR Third-World strongman? Our Batista? Our Franco? Our Mubutu Sese-Seko? Our Suharto? Our Ferdinand Marcos?
At the same time as the economic screws are being tightened, the political ones are as well. The effective suspension of some Constitutional rights in the country, among other things, is an eerie tandem to the economic trend.
It's going to get worse. The news from countries like China, that have been buying U.S. Treasuries and have waning confidence in the dollar, gets grimmer all the time. There will come a day when there's no one left to borrow from.
The economic model for a Third-World country goes sort of like: 10% have about 90% of the effective wealth; about 30%, a precarious middle-class life; and the remaining 60% live in poverty.
I can foresee Canada soon having an illegal immigrant problem, what with the current trends in America. Hell, I'm ready to pack up and go now. Vamos, al norte! Any journalism jobs in Winnipeg? They aren't even building any fences on that border, not yet.
Jokes aside, many right-wingers would urge me to go, today. But this is my country, too, and I'm old enough to remember when it was a better place. I can remember when people who made $8 an hour (or the inflation-adjusted equivalent) were interested in organizing unions, not being duped by Bill O'Reilly or Rush Limbaugh. I can remember when many of them seemed to understand who it really was that was screwing them.
It's all looking way too Mexico, stolen elections and all. When they said it can happen here, they were thinking of far worse things. But the Third World looks bad enough.
Manifesto Joe is an underground writer living in Texas. Check out his blog at Manifesto Joe's Texas Blues.
Friday, November 09, 2007
The Creepy Similarities Between George W. Bush and Vlad the Impaler
They were both petulant, arrogant, and convinced that they were doing God's work. They were both out-of-control, power-mad leaders. As youngsters, they both enjoyed torturing small animals. Both spent their ruling years engaged in horrific wars against Islamic nations. And despite their cruel, bloodthirsty and savage ways, both have fanatical supporters who defend their actions to this day.
Who am I talking about?
George W. Bush and Vlad The Impaler.
Vlad, who is believed to have served as the inspiration for Bram Stoker's Dracula novel was, in real life, a 15th century prince of the East European state of Wallachia (now part of Romania).
Like Bush, Vlad was born into a background of wealth, power and privilege. Like Bush's dad, Vlad's father, Vlad II Dracul, was a head of state, as well. Both father and son spent their reigns engaged in bloody wars against Muslim nations (the Ottoman Empire, in the case of Vlad).
Even as youngsters, George W. Bush and Vlad The Impaler had creepy similarities in their lives. Both shared an enthusiasm for torturing small animals.
The 1990 book, Dracula, Prince of Many Faces: His Life and His Times points out that as a youngster, Vlad amused himself by torturing and mutilating small animals:
"...he could not cure himself of the evil habit of catching mice and having birds bought at the marketplace, so that he could punish them by impalement."
As The New York Times reported, in a May 21, 2000 article, George W. Bush also enjoyed torturing small animals as a youngster. "We were terrible to animals," Bush childhood friend Terry Throckmorton was quoted as saying. Throckmorton described how Bush and his friends treated frogs they found on the Bush family estate.
"Everybody would get BB guns and shoot them," Throckmorton said. "Or we'd put firecrackers in the frogs and throw them and blow them up."
The life stories of George W. Bush and Vlad The Impaler share other similarities. Taking a look at their time in power, one can't help but notice the eerie similarities in both rulers' bloody, savage wars against Muslim nations.
The atrocities that occurred in Vlad The Impaler's military campaigns against the Muslim nations are well documented. Reading about these atrocities, one can't help but be reminded of the various horrors of Bush's war in Iraq, including the Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuse case, as well as the use of flesh-melting white phosphorous chemical weapons against the population of Fallujah.
Both Bush and Vlad, of course, were advocates of torture during their time in power. Bush enthusiastically embraced waterboarding. And Vlad, of course, was a big fan of the torture technique that gave him his nickname ("The Impaler").
Another similarity is that Bush and Vlad were both famous as tough, law-and-order rulers (as long as those accused of breaking the law weren't wealthy cronies). In Vlad's time, the peasants were so frightened of breaking the law, that it is said that one could leave a bag of gold on the street and return to find it untouched the next day.
Of course, "law and order" has long been one of Bush's favorite campaign themes, dating back to his time as Texas governor. In Bush's five years as governor, Texas executed 152 prisoners, by far the highest total for any state and more than any other governor in modern American history.
One final notable similarity between George W. Bush and Vlad The Impaler is how both men have fanatical followers who continue to passionately defend their legacies to this day.
While Vlad is recognized in the West as a bloodthirsty monster and tyrant, many people in Romania regard Vlad as a national hero to this day. As Dracula, Prince of Many Faces points out, oral Romanian folklore made Vlad "a national hero, a kind of George Washington of Romanian history."
Compare that to today's worship of Bush by the nutcase right-wing fringe. From Fox News to hatewing radio to the right-wing blogosphere, Bush has a fanatical following that throws a temper tantrum any time someone dares to criticize their beloved hero.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
White House Censorship Of Global Warming Science Nothing New
The White House has come under fire for censoring congressional testimony on the public health challenges of global warming.
But it's not the first time the Bush administration has tried to censor the inconvenient truths of global warming.
In October 2004, NASA's top climate scientist revealed that a senior administration official told him in 2003 not to discuss dangerous consequences of rising temperatures.
The New York Times reported in January 2006 that the NASA scientist, James E. Hansen, said the Bush administration tried to stop him from speaking out after he called for "prompt reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases linked to global warming."
The Bush White House's war on global warming science continues to this day.
Yesterday, the Associated Press reported the White House "severely edited congressional testimony given Tuesday by the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on the impact of climate change on health, removing specific scientific references to potential health risks, according to two sources familiar with the documents."
No one should be surprised that the Bush White House is lying about global warming and is furiously working to censor the science. After all, George W. Bush is in the pocket of the oil corporations and other Fortune 500 companies who put him in power (and which fiercely oppose any government action on global warming).
What's amazing, though, is despite the lies, spin and misinformation pumped out by Bush (and the rest of the NeoCon propaganda machine), the American people are STILL alarmed by global warming and want the government to step in and deal with the crisis.
For example, a survey taken last year by ABC News, Time magazine and Stanford University revealed that almost seven in 10 Americans say the government should do more to address global warming. And what do you want to bet that those remaining 30 percent are the same Kool-Aid drinkers who get all their news from Rush and Fox?
Friday, October 05, 2007
Torture Is As American As Apple Pie
George W. Bush raised a lot of eyebrows when he emphatically stated that the U.S. does not engage in torture. It was an ironic comment, especially in view of the White House's fierce lobbying in 2005 against a congressional drive to outlaw torture.
In fact, torture has been well documented at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo and other U.S. facilities. Torture techniques range from the practice of "water boarding" (which simulates the effect of drowning) to vicious beatings. Other torture techniques include the pressing of lit cigarettes against detainees' flesh. Prisoners were also reportedly forced to walk on broken glass and barbed wire.
Although the Bush White House has embraced torture, it's important to note that torture is nothing new in American history.
For example, torture was widely employed by the Reagan-backed Central American death squads, which massacred hundreds of thousands of civilians in Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua in the 1980s. One secret CIA manual, from 1983, offered advice in various torture techniques.
If Bush really believes the U.S. doesn't engage in torture, he really ought to bone up on his history. Bush wouldn't have to venture far from his Crawford ranch to find ample evidence---after all, nearby Waco knows a thing or two about torture.
For example, in 1916, a mentally retarded African-American youth, Jesse Washington, was arrested on the flimsiest of evidence in the murder of a Waco-area woman. After a short sham trial, the 17-year-old youth was dragged out of a courtroom by the trial spectators. He was slashed repeatedly with knives, castrated, and had his fingers and toes cut off. Then, before a crowd of 15,000 in downtown Waco, he was burned alive at the stake. City officials did nothing to stop the lynching, which was observed by the mayor and chief of police.
But I suppose it's unfair to single out Waco for this atrocity. In fact, Washington's torture-murder was only one of tens of thousands of lynchings that occurred during what historians have referred to as the era of "spectacle lynchings" from the 1880s to the 1920s. In many cases, the victims were tortured for hours, before they were soaked with kerosene and set on fire by cheering mobs. Like the Washington murder, many of the lynchings occurred in broad daylight, in crowded downtown areas, while city officials looked on, or even participated.
This ugly chapter of widespread torture has been largely forgotten by Americans today. Taking a cue from Stalinist Russia, the U.S. has carefully airbrushed away its atrocities when presenting the official, sanitized version of American history.
Some people might argue that, although thousands of lynchings did occur, they all happened a long time ago. They might wish to tell this to the family of James Byrd, Jr. In 1998, Byrd was chained to a pickup by three white supremacists and dragged to his death in Jasper, Texas.
In the aftermath of the Jasper lynching, a grass-roots effort in Texas urged the state to pass a hate crimes act to help prevent future atrocities. However, the bill failed to pass in the Texas Legislature after then-Governor George W. Bush refused to support the bill.
When Bush claims that the U.S. doesn't engage in torture, he's simply carrying on a rich tradition of denial and suppression of the truth that is as American as apple pie.
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
Hillary Has Returned Hsu Money; When Will Bush Return Enron Cash?
So Hillary Clinton has decided to return donations linked to disgraced fundraiser Norman Hsu.
OK, good: that was the right thing to do.
And while we're on the topic of campaign donations, I have a question for the Republicans.
When will George W. Bush return the $1.14 million that his campaign received from Enron?
You remember Enron, don't you? It was only the most evil corporation in the history of American capitalism (and that's really saying something).
And while it's unclear exactly what Hsu ever got for his efforts to raise money for Clinton, it's quite clear what Enron got in return for the cash it gave Bush.
For a start, Enron got a seat at the table to meet in secret with Dick Cheney to help plan the country's energy policies. Bush also went to bat for Enron and fought against federal price caps that allowed Enron to price-gouge millions of energy customers in California, a fiasco that nearly bankrupted that state. As a result, Enron reported increased revenues of almost $70 billion from the previous year.
As Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) put it, "senior Enron executives were enriching themselves at the same time that Enron was lavishing large campaign contributions on President Bush and the Republican Party and apparently influencing the administration's energy policies."
The whole sordid Bush/Enron saga is way too sweeping and complex to go into detail here. But suffice it to say, the entire rotten mess towers over the nickel-dime, chump-change Norman Hsu affair.
And, unlike the Hsu case (which was quite limited in its impact), the Enron affair ultimately was very costly to millions of ordinary Americans. These ranged from shell-shocked California energy customers to thousands of screwed Enron employees, who were forced to invest their retirement plans in company stock that plunged in value even as top executives were raking in millions by cashing in their shares when Enron stock was at its peak.
The MSM held Clinton's feet to the fire until she decided to return the Hsu donations. Now, will the pundits demand that Bush return the $1.14 million that his campaign got from Enron?
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
Bush Fares Worse In Polls Than Congressional Democrats, Despite MSM Spin
The MSM would have us believe that Democrats in Congress have even lower approval ratings than George W. Bush's dismal poll numbers. But while in fact the Democrats' poll numbers are indeed low, they are higher than Bush's poll numbers.
Typical of the MSM coverage has been USA Today, which recently quoted a Gallup Poll spokesman saying that the Democratic-led Congress has had a very brief honeymoon and stands lower in Americans' eyes than President Bush.
There's only one problem with this MSM spin: not all members of Congress are Democrats. Break down the approval rating of members of Congress by party and the Dems have an approval rating of 37 percent, which (while low) is higher than Bush's approval rating. By contrast, GOP members of Congress have a truly dismal approval rating of a mere 29 percent.
I haven't seen this important distinction made in the MSM's coverage of Congress's approval ratings. In fact, every story seems to emphasize that "the Democratic-led Congress" has approval ratings in the toilet.
The wingnuts, of course, have had a field day with this "story," spinning it as bad news only for the Democrats. But if you stop and think about it, the GOP really has little reason to celebrate.
First of all, as Gallup has pointed out, Congress' approval ratings have been consistently low for decades---with only two exceptions: the Watergate era and in 1986 (when Congress' approval rating was at 40 percent). Indeed, the mainstream media has been irresponsible in its lack of context for failing to mention this fact in reporting on Congress' recent low approval numbers.
The fact is, pollsters have long noted that the American public has a dim view of Congress as a whole (but they often have a much higher opinion of their own local lawmakers).
It's important to remember the reason that Congress has a low approval rating these days.
Is it because the public disapproves of the lawmakers' efforts in the Congress to raise minimum wage and other Democratic legislative initiatives?
Nope, that's not the reason. In fact, polls have consistently shown that the public supports raising the minimum wage.
In fact, as Michael Moore pointed out in his book, Dude, Where's My Country? the majority of the American public agrees with the Democrats on most of the top domestic issues of our time. These range from keeping abortion legal to promoting civil rights to protecting the environment to stronger controls on firearms. Indeed, polls consistently show that a majority of the American public is further to the left than most Democratic politicians on many issues, such as health care. For example, 80 percent of Americans believe that health insurance should be provided equally to everyone in the nation.
The bottom line is that, if the Republicans take a good, hard look at the reason why Americans are fed up with this Congress, it's actually bad news for the GOP, not the Democrats.
The reality is, Americans are sick and tired of the war in Iraq--and they're fed up with the stumbling efforts in Congress to bring an end to this fiasco.
And try as they may to distance themselves from George W. Bush, the Republicans are going to have a difficult time distancing themselves from the Iraq War. After all, the overwhelming majority of the remaining Iraq War supporters in this country are Republicans.
The bottom line is that Congress' current low approval ratings has nothing to do with the public turning away from the sort of progressive policies that Democrats favor. And it has everything to do with the extreme unpopularity of a war that will always be associated with GOP politicians, whether they like it or not.
Saturday, August 11, 2007
Bush 'Subtly' Threatens To Take Al-Maliki To The Woodshed
George W. Bush had one of his infrequent news conferences Thursday before taking off the rest of August, as he always does. And the topics were wide-ranging. One thing that was almost buried in The Washington Post account didn't escape my notice. He seemed to inform Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki that there's a woodshed, and that he might be taken to it.
Al-Maliki met with Iran's leadership, and the talks were reported to have been cordial. That couldn't have been good news for Bush. Here's an excerpt from The Post's account:
Foreign policy absorbed much of the conference, with Bush denouncing Iran as a "destabilizing influence" in the Middle East even as Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was in Tehran meeting with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Bush brushed off reports of warm words and smiling pictures between the two, saying such cordiality was simply protocol. "You don't want the picture to be kind of, you know, duking it out," he said, putting up his fists.
But Bush said he would warn Maliki against trusting Ahmadinejad, much as the president did with Afghan President Hamid Karzai at Camp David earlier this week. "If the signal is that Iran is constructive, I will have to have a heart-to-heart with my friend, the prime minister," Bush said of Maliki, "because I don't believe they are constructive. I don't think he, in his heart of heart, thinks they're constructive, either."
One doesn't need to read too deeply between the lines to see a veiled threat. I would love to be a fly on the wall at that little "heart-to-heart."
But the problem is, what does Bush really have, at this point, to threaten al-Maliki with? He warns that Iran is a "destabilizing influence." How much more destabilized can Iraq become? Iran may be exploiting obvious semi-anarchy there in extending its already-formidable influence among Iraqi Shiites. And it may well be contributing to the slow carnage being inflicted in the country, and on U.S. troops. Given our two countries' history, would we have expected them to do otherwise?
How much worse, at this juncture, can things become for al-Maliki and his allies? They're grabbing desperately for anything they can hang onto.
In another account of this news conference, I read that Bush assured reporters that, although much work remains to be done, there is evidence that the Iraqi government is learning how to function.
The evidence of this I've seen lately is that close to half the government, the Sunni element, recently quit and is boycotting the process.
Bush seems determined to remain clueless until the end of his rule -- or the end of something, anyway. In any case, I think al-Maliki has more serious things to worry about right now than any "heart-to-heart" talk that George W. Bush could confront him with.
Manifesto Joe is an underground writer living in Texas. Check out his blog at Manifesto Joe's Texas Blues.
Wednesday, August 08, 2007
Bush's Gutting of Safety Rules Preceded Utah Mine Collapse
The trapping of six miners in a Utah coal mine collapse is the latest coal industry disaster to occur since George W. Bush took office. Since 2000, Bush has cut funding for mine safety enforcement by $15 million and stacked the Mine Safety and Health Administration with representatives of corporate interests.
Coal mining deaths have increased sharply in the past few years. 2006 was the deadliest year in a decade for coal miners.
As the AFL-CIO notes, 47 coal miners were killed on the job last year, a 210 percent increase over 2005, when 22 coal miners died on the job. 2006 was marked by several major disasters, including a Jan. 2 explosion that killed 12 coal miners in Sago Mine in West Virginia.
Although times are perilous for coal miners, it's a different story for America's coal companies. For example, 2005 was a record year for revenue and profits for St. Louis–based Peabody Energy Corp., the world's largest private-sector coal producer. In 2005, Peabody recorded revenues of $4.64 billion, up about 28 percent from 2004.
As WSWS.org points out, the "Bush administration has stacked (the Mine Safety and Health Administration) with former coal managers who have unashamedly tailored the agency’s policies to meet the profit needs of the operators."
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
Media Ignored Previous Larry Flynt Bombshell; Will It Cover His New Revelations?
Love him or hate him, you've gotta admit, Larry Flynt is one smart man. Like a lot of us, he's sick and tired of Republican hypocrisy. And he knows that the mainstream media is pathologically incapable of ignoring a story that involves sex.
One gets the feeling, though, that the mainstream media just wishes Flynt would go away. There are already indications that the MSM isn't prepared to investigate Flynt's sex scandal leads. For example, on July 10, as Media Matters reported, neither NBC Nightly News and CBS Evening News reported on the disclosure that Sen. David Vitter's (R-LA) phone number was among the phone records of alleged "D.C. Madam" Deborah Jeane Palfrey.
The Vitter case has gotten heavy play in the progressive blogosphere. But it remains to be seen if the MSM will investigate this story and give it the coverage it deserves.
In any case, this isn't the first time that the MSM has downplayed or ignored bombshells that resulted from Flynt's investigative efforts.
For example, in 2000, Flynt tried to encourage the media to examine a bombshell story that, in 1971, George W. Bush got his then-girlfriend, a woman named Robin Lowman (now Robin Garner) pregnant and then arranged for her to have an abortion. (Note that in 1971, abortions were illegal in Texas).
But, predictably, Flynt got nowhere. The same mainstream media that gave us 18 months of around-the-clock, saturation coverage of the Monica Lewinsky story, refused to touch the Bush/abortion story.
It's downright eerie and Orwellian, the way the Bush/abortion story has been consistently ignored and even covered up by our nation's media. Few Americans have even heard of this story to this day.
One interesting episode on CNN a few years back neatly sums the media's approach to this story. On November 7, 2000, Flynt briefly spoke about the Bush/abortion case during an appearance on CNN's "Crossfire." Bizarrely, CNN later deleted Flynt's comments from the show's official transcripts, in an unprecedented move that indicates that the media in this country have received orders from their corporate owners to not touch this story.
Flynt was later interviewed on the Bernie Ward radio talk show on KGO radio in San Francisco, where he mentioned the CNN transcript issue and then lambasted the media:
"The mainstream media is scared to death of this story. They won't even check out the facts that I already have, much less ask Bush the question."
The mainstream media snoozed through this story during the 2000 election. And I suppose there's little reason that the media will look into it now.
It's true: the Bush/abortion story was never confirmed. But the lack of confirmation on a story never stopped the MSM from giving widespread coverage to stories when they involved Bill Clinton. Recall how in March 1998, the MSM gave saturation coverage to the Paula Jones case. (Time magazine even put the story on its cover).
It remains to be seen if the MSM will investigate Flynt's latest bombshell story. But on the basis of the MSM's track record in the Bush era, the odds are not good.
In fact, since Bush first took office, the nation's media has fallen into an eerie slumber. From GannonGate to PlameGate to the Downing Street memos, the media has snoozed through one major GOP scandal after another.
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
Poll: Bush Approval Rating Slumps To 25 Percent
Just how unpopular is George W. Bush these days? A new poll by American Research Group has Bush's approval rating at 25 percent. In the poll, 71 percent of Americans disapprove of Bush's job performance and 73 percent disapprove of the way he's handling the economy.
This latter information probably comes as a surprise to the Wall Street crowd and the inside-the-Beltway pundits who have been busy trumpeting the Dow's recent rise as evidence that America's economy is supposedly in stellar shape these days. Actually, I suppose it is in great shape for the mega-wealthy class of people who've seen their incomes explode into the stratosphere under Bush.
The new poll numbers represent the highest level of disapproval and lowest level of approval for the Bush presidency recorded in monthly surveys by the American Research Group.
See the full American Research Group results here.
Monday, July 23, 2007
Bush Enjoys World-Class Health Care Even As He Fights To Gut Children's Health Program
I always find it fascinating how the likes of George W. Bush and other GOP politicians constantly speak out against government-run health care, even as they get to enjoy world-class government-run health care themselves.
When you're the U.S. president, you get the best health-care treatment in the world. And it's all paid for by the taxpayers.
Unlike the rest of us, Bush doesn't have to worry about how he's going to pay for his health care. He doesn't have to haggle with greedy HMOs. He doesn't have to spend sleepless nights, worrying about what will happen if he or a member of his family has a catastrophic health-care crisis. He doesn't have to wait in line to get treatment.
In fact, Bush doesn't even need to lift a finger to see a doctor. All he's got to do is give the word, and a world-class physician will come to see him in the White House, any time he wants, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
In other words, Bush is living in a different universe than the rest of us.
Despite the lavish government-run medical care Bush receives, he's quite confident that the best health-care solution for the rest of us is that offered by stingy, corrupt HMOs. In reality, of course, HMOs don't give a damn about the health care of their clients. They're only concerned with maximizing their quarterly profits.
And even as Bush enjoys state-of-the-art, world-class government-run health care, he's working to gut a successful program that offers health care to children in America.
As The New York Times reported, Bush has threatened to veto any substantial increase in spending for the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, a joint federal-state effort that has substantially reduced the number of uninsured children in the country.
As the Times noted, the program now gets $5 billion a year in federal money to match state contributions, and the Bush administration has proposed a meager increase of $5 billion spread over the next five years. The Times reported that "that would not even be enough to cover all of the 6.6 million children who were enrolled at some time during the last year. Hundreds of thousands of children would likely fall off the rolls. And there would be no help for some eight to nine million children who now have no health coverage at all."
At first glance, Bush's proposed $5 billion might sound like a lot of money. But the fact is, Pentagon blows through that much money every couple of weeks in Bush's illegal, immoral war in Iraq. And that doesn't include the many billions of dollars that have vanished and remain completely unaccounted for in Iraq.
Bush is following in the proud Republican tradition of being penny-wise and pound-foolish. He fights a highly successful program offering health care to children to save a few billion dollars. And then he turns around and lavishes billions of dollars on his failed, reckless war in Iraq (not to mention the billions in corporate welfare for the likes of Halliburton).
Bush also serves up a hefty dose of Republican hypocrisy. He fights the State Children's Health Insurance Program, because it's a government-run program. But then he shamelessly enjoys the benefits of the world-class, government-run health care that he and his family receives. In fact, for all of Bush's advocacy of private-sector solutions for health-care, I don't recall him ever once proposing that health-care for politicians be handed over to the HMO sharks.
Saturday, July 14, 2007
Previous Boasts Of Success Against Al-Qaeda Come Back To Haunt GOP
For years, George W. Bush and the GOP have been boasting that America is winning the fight against Al-Qaeda.
Now that cocky claim has come back to haunt Bush and the Republicans. The Associated Press has reported that U.S. intelligence analysts have concluded al-Qaeda has rebuilt its operating capability to a level not seen since 9/11.
You'd think that Bush would have learned a lesson in humility after his 2003 PR stunt fiasco when he strutted in his flightsuit across the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln beneath the "Mission Accomplished" banner. I mean, here we are four bloody years later, and no end in sight in Iraq's civil war.
And now Bush's boast that America is winning in the fight against al-Qaeda has been completely debunked by the new report by U.S. intelligence analysts.
This latest revelation makes a mockery of the cocky claims that we've been hearing from Bush and his supporters over the years. For example, on Sept. 7, 2006, Bush boasted in a speech to the Georgia Public Policy Foundation that "America is safer and America is winning the War on Terror."
Bush hasn't been the only right-winger to make such ridiculous, unsubstantiated claims since 2001. Take Fox News regular Richard Miniter, whose silly book, Losing Bin Laden: How Bill Clinton's Failures Unleashed Global Terror, was the toast of the conservative media in 2004.
Miniter created an even bigger splash in the right-wing world in 2005 with his book, Shadow War: The Untold Story of How Bush is Winning the War on Terror. The book breathlessly detailed such bombshells as "the Bush administration’s secret plan to hit Al-Qaeda before Sept. 11, 2001."
I guess the accepted story about Bush taking month-long leisurely vacations at his Crawford ranch and ignoring critical PDBs was nothing more than a Liberal Media Falsehood.
Anyway, for those taking notes, let's review a couple of facts:
1. George W. Bush and right-wing nutcases like Miniter have been arrogantly boasting for years that America is "winning" in its fight against Al-Qaeda.
2. U.S. intelligence analysts now believe Al-Qaeda has rebuilt its operating capability to a level not seen since 9/11.
Don't expect this latest development to change many minds in the diehard wingnut camp. After all, we're talking about Kool-Aid drinkers who still believe to this day that Saddam was behind 9/11. I'd imagine the right-wing blogs are already gearing up to attack the "liberal" Associated Press for reporting this story in the first place.
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
The Real Culprit For the Iraq War Fiasco: American Hubris
Who should we blame for the Iraq War fiasco?
George W. Bush? Dick Cheney? The NeoCons in general?
Personally, I think we ought to blame the arrogance of the American nation for this fiasco.
After all, many Americans, both rich and poor, Republicans and Democrats, are some of the most arrogant people on the face of the earth.
It's an arrogance that is the result of many factors. For one thing, it stems from the fact that U.S. is widely perceived to be the world's leading economic power. And the fact that Americans regard our nation to be nothing less than God's gift to the world: a nation with the world's best political system, the best justice system, the best economic system---in fact, the best overall system of any nation.
With this sort of arrogance rampant amongst Americans, it shouldn't really be any surprise that we as a nation believe that the rest of the world hungers to live the way we do. We believe that the rest of the world these days not only seeks to model their nations after America---but that they are actively working to do so.
Such hubris led most Americans to believe that Iraqis would greet us as liberators. Such arrogance led most of us to believe that the Iraqis would shower our troops with flowers---and then busy themselves with the task of re-making their society along the lines of an American-style Jeffersonian democracy.
We were astonished when this did not in fact happen. Psychologically, we as a people simply couldn't fathom why the Iraqi people wouldn't eagerly remake their nation in our image. We were stunned when the Iraqis began a ferocious insurgency against our occupation and began killing our troops with IEDs and suicide bombers. We were even more stunned when opinion polls consistently showed that an astonishing number of ordinary Iraqis supported these attacks on U.S. troops.
It's interesting to note that Iraq has a culture that was already ancient when Christ was born. And yet for all the turmoil, war, and strife that that nation has endured over the years, there was never a recorded instance of a suicide bomber until 2003, when America invaded Iraq. For all its faults, Saddam's regime never faced a single suicide bomb. Nor did Saddam's convoys ever face a roadside bomb.
America's arrogance has resulted in disasters for our nation (and for the world at large) before. After all, it was arrogance that led the U.S. into its previous disastrous war in Vietnam. We were convinced then that the Vietnamese were eager to embrace U.S.-style capitalism (when in fact, the Communists enjoyed widespread support among the peasants in the countryside).
It is our arrogance as a nation that will almost certainly lead us into future wars.
Many Americans have a tough time comprehending that the rest of the world simply doesn't wish to live the way we do. To be sure, there may be specific aspects of our society, here and there, that other nations admire. But the rest of the world simply doesn't want to emulate our nation as a whole.
A big part of the reason we can't comprehend why the world doesn't wish to live like us is rooted in Americans' complete and total ignorance about the rest of the world. It's a state of affairs that has arisen in large part because of America's abysmal education system and our lousy corporate media.
Few Americans speak a second language. And even fewer seem to fathom that the rest of the world simply doesn't think the way that we do. Instead of accepting this basic fact of life, Americans instead tend to criticize other nations for not doing things the way we do (because, after all, we reason, the American Way is, of course the best way to get things done).
Americans never stop to consider that maybe, just maybe, other nations don't worship the American Way and have no intention of copying us.
A good example of this is the American corporate media's constant slamming of Europe's economic system these days. As a result of the U.S. media's misinformation campaign about Europe, most Americans these days are under the impression that Europe is an economic basket case, struggling with "sky-high" taxes, an "over-regulated" economic system, "out-of-control" labor unions, and "excessive" workers' rights that threaten to destroy Europe's economic competitiveness.
What's worse is that the American media would have us believe that Europeans are busy these days "deregulating" their economies and working to re-make their nations along American lines, with less regulation, weaker unions, longer working hours, etc.
It might come as a surprise to most Americans that Europe, in fact, has no intention of copying America's concept of capitalism. In fact, Europe long ago took a good, hard look at America's brutal, dog-eat-dog economic system and rejected it.
In fact, many Europeans resent the U.S. lecturing them about economics. They wonder how Americans can proclaim their nation to be the "world's most competitive" economy, when in fact the U.S. economy doesn't make much these days that the rest of the world wants to buy. (Hence, America's titanic trade deficits, the largest in world history).
Do the Europeans really need any lessons in economics from America? Through European eyes, the U.S. economy seems to be a giant Ponzi scheme: an economic system that needs trillions of dollars in foreign capital just to stay afloat.
All of this raises the question: does any nation really want to emulate the American system these days? After all, the U.S. has the worst education system in the industrialized world. We have the world's largest prison population. We have a currency that is in danger of meltdown, because of our out-of-control deficits. We have a population that is the most economically polarized in the First World. We have a crumbling infrastructure. We have 47 million people who have no health-care coverage.
Last, but not least, we have a political system that has been thoroughly corrupted by money. People in other nations look at our political system these days not with admiration, but with bafflement. They wonder how Americans can tolerate a system that produces travesties like the 2000 election, when the "losing" candidate got 549,000 more votes than George W. Bush. They also wonder how Americans can tolerate a political system that is so obviously rigged to benefit the rich, at the expense of the poor and middle class.
In George W. Bush's simplistic, black-and-white view of the Middle East, the people were hungering for American-style democracy. I'd suspect most Americans believed the same, particularly in the heady days leading up to the U.S. 2003 invasion, when Americans went through one of their periodic outbursts of jingoistic flag-waving.
Four bloody years later, we've come to learn that maybe, we never really understood Iraq, after all. In the end, we invited the current disaster, with our nation's complete ignorance of other cultures and our arrogant delusion that the people of the Middle East were eager to remake their societies along American lines.
Friday, June 22, 2007
Violent Rhetoric About The Clintons Falls On Deaf Ears At Secret Service---But Watch What You Say About Bush
Right-wing nutcase Michael Graham's latest controversy---in which he said he wanted to see someone "whack" the Clintons in a Sopranos spoof isn't the first time he's used violent rhetoric when discussing the Clintons. In 2003, Graham said of Hillary Clinton: "I wanted to bludgeon her with a tire iron."
Such inflammatory language is nothing new for the right-wing. Recall how Ann Coulter once wrote that the debate over Bill Clinton should be about "whether to impeach or assassinate."
Recall also the comment by Jesse Helms in 1994: "Mr. Clinton better watch out if he comes down here. He'd better have a bodyguard."
Or G. Gordon Liddy's comment in 1995, when discussing how he'd used stick figures of the Clintons for target practice. "Thought it might improve my aim," he said.
I guess the right-wing nutcases excuse the above inflammatory comments as "humor."
The problem is, the Secret Service isn't an organization known for its sense of humor.
What's baffling is that right-wing nutcases can continue to use violent inflammatory language when discussing the Clintons and face no repercussions.
But when you talk about George W. Bush these days, you really need to watch what you say. Or else, you're going to get a visit from the Secret Service.
Case in point:
In September 2005, a North Carolina high school teacher assigned her senior civics and economics class "to take photographs to illustrate their rights in the Bill of Rights."
One of her students took a photo of Bush and tacked the picture to a wall with a red thumb tack through his head. Then he made a thumb's down sign with his own hand next to Bush's picture, which he photographed and pasted onto a poster.
The student took his film to a local Wal-Mart to be processed. The Wal-Mart promptly called the police, who turned the matter over to the Secret Service.
On Sept. 20, 2005, two Secret Service agents showed up at the high school and confiscated the poster and interrogated the teacher. At the end of the meeting, they told her the incident "would be interpreted by the U.S. attorney, who would decide whether the student could be indicted."
Although no further action was taken in this particular case by the Secret Service, I find it interesting how an innocent student project about the Bill of Rights could spur such a frightening and intimidating visit from the Secret Service.
And meanwhile, right-wing nutcases continue to use the nation's airwaves to spew violent rhetoric about the Clintons, which apparently falls on deaf ears at the Secret Service.
Thursday, June 14, 2007
Why GOP Bush-Haters Are Even Scarier Than The 28-Percenters
Over the past year, George W. Bush has gone from being perhaps the ultimate GOP wet-dream president to a politician whom even many Republicans hate.
At first glance, this ought to be welcome news. After all, we liberals have been shouting from the highest rooftops about why Bush is bad for America ever since 2000.
It's nice that a lot of Republicans have now come around to our way of thinking.
There's only one problem. If you take a look at the reason why many Republicans finally rejected Bush, it's not an encouraging sign.
After all, why did many Republicans finally turn against Bush?
Was it the illegal, immoral war in Iraq that Bush lied America into? No.
Was it Bush's blatant disregard for America's Constitution? No.
Was it Bush's illegal wiretaps? No.
Was it the disastrously bungled response to Hurricane Katrina? No.
Was it embracing torture as an official instrument of American policy? No.
Was it any one of a number of other serious violations of Bush's oath of office and impeachable offenses? No.
The scary thing is that the Republicans who abandoned Bush didn't have problems with any of the above.
They stood by Bush through thick and thin, and weren't deterred from supporting their hero, even when he dragged America's name through the mud and made us the most feared and hated nation on the planet.
No, the thing that finally ended the love affair between millions of Republicans and the Fratboy-In-Chief was their former hero's immigration policy, of all things.
I've talked to a number of Republicans over the past year and it's become apparent to me that Bush's immigration policy was the straw that broke the camel's back for them. As a couple of Republicans explained it to me last week, "We're sick and tired of all these fucking spics coming into our country."
So there you have it: torture is fine, shredding the Constitution is fine, lying the nation into war is fine. Just keep America as white as possible, and you won't get a peep of protest out of the droves of Republicans who abandoned Bush.
Like I said, Republican Bush-haters are even more frightening than the 28-percenters.
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
It's Official: Bush More Popular In Albania Than Paris Hilton Is With The MSM
There was once a novel, and also a song, called something like, Been Down So Very Damn Long That It Looks Like Up To Me. This is one theory about George W. "Bushie" Bush's mysterious popularity in the European garden spot of Albania.
In America, his approval ratings have sunk into the toilet. Here in his home state, he's below 50 percent. In parts of Europe, he's in single digits. In Italy, while he was meeting with the pope, angry mobs took to the streets.
In Albania, he got a rock star's reception. "Bushie, Bushie," they chanted. Old women kissed him on both cheeks, and the rabble reached out to muss his gray hair. He was deemed by the prime minister the greatest guest the country ever had.
History must be considered. Among Europeans, Albanians are like someone who's been in a torture chamber so long that a stretch in a minimum-security prison must seem like utopia.
These are a long, long-suffering people, beset by empires and dictators of all sorts, starting with the Romans. They were dominated by the Ottoman Empire for centuries, which made them the only Muslim-majority populace in Europe. (Convert, or split).
Mussolini's Italian fascist army overran them just before World War II (although I read that they had a little trouble with the guys with the pitchforks). After the communists took over in 1944, they had a dictator, Enver Hoxha, who made Uncle Joe Stalin seem like a bud you could sit down and have a few chilled Stolis with.
In 1967 Hoxha declared the country the world's first official atheist country, closing all the mosques. Before he died and went to Hell in 1985, he somehow even managed to piss off communist China.
Even after Hoxha died and went to Hell, Albania's luck didn't get much better. In the 1990s the country started moving toward a market economy, but their first big taste of it was nasty. This from Wikipedia:
In 1997 widespread riots erupted after the International Monetary Fund forced the state to liberalize banking practices. Many citizens, naive to the workings of a market economy, put their entire savings into pyramid schemes. In a short while, $2 billion (80% of the country's GDP) had been moved into the hands of just a few pyramid scheme owners, causing severe economic troubles and civic unrest.
So, their first experience with capitalism was a vast Ponzi scheme, and they're still enthusiastic about it? Hell, they sound like Americans to me. Maybe Karl Rove can figure out a way to make them into the 51st state. They'd be a lock for the Republicans.
I guess when you been down so long, almost anything looks like up. Even Bush.
Manifesto Joe is an underground writer living in Texas. Check out his blog at Manifesto Joe's Texas Blues.
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