Archive for the ‘bush’ tag
While the full implications surrounding the “War on Terror” that was initially waged by George W. Bush after Sept. 11, 2001, have been brought to light many times before (here, here and here), Ta-Nehisi Coates with The Atlantic recently asked some hard questions that, because of Bush’s declaration and the United States’ commitment to ending terror, don’t admit to any easy answers.
One of the most important and morally gray questions: does torture work, and if so, should we be willing to use it to extract information that is vital to national security. Coates notes some of the inconsistencies surrounding President Obama’s own policy on fighting terror:
The president is anti-torture — which is to say he thinks the water-boarding of actual confirmed terrorist Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was wrong. He thinks it was wrong, no matter the goal — which is to say the president would not countenance the torture of an actual terrorist to foil a plot against the country he’s sworn to protect. But the president would countenance the collateral killing of innocent men, women and children by drone in pursuit of an actual terrorist. What is the morality that holds the body of a captured enemy inviolable, but not the body of those who happen to be in the way? (Italics mine.)
I don’t have an answer to that last question. Critics of torture never tire of arguing — and as Quentin Tarantino argues in Reservoir Dogs — a person will say anything to make the pain stop. Or, in the infallible logic of Nice Guy Eddie:
If you fucking beat this prick long enough, he’ll tell you he started the goddamn Chicago fire, now that don’t necessarily make it fucking so!
Or, perhaps Mr. White’s rather nuanced view is correct:
Now if it’s a manager, that’s a different story. Managers know better than to fuck around, so if you get one that’s giving you static, he probably thinks he’s a real cowboy, so you gotta break that son of a bitch in two. If you wanna know something and he won’t tell you, cut off one of his fingers. The little one. Then tell him his thumb’s next. After that he’ll tell you if he wears ladies underwear. I’m hungry. Let’s get a taco.
What about the view of Creasy from Man on Fire:
I am going to ask questions. If you don’t answer fully and truthfully, you will suffer much more than you have to. I’m going to cut your fingers off. One by one, if I have to.
Or, how about Jack Bauer:
Jack Bauer: Ibraham Hadad had targeted a bus carrying over forty-five people, ten of which were children. The truth, Senator, is that I stopped that attack from happening.
Sen. Blaine Mayer: By torturing Mr. Hadad!
Jack Bauer: By doing what I deemed necessary to protect innocent lives.
Sen. Blaine Mayer: So basically, what you’re saying, Mr. Bauer, is that the ends justify the means, and that you are above the law.
Jack Bauer: When I am activated, when I am brought into a situation, there is a reason, and that reason is to complete the objectives of my mission at all costs.
Sen. Blaine Mayer: Even if it means breaking the law.
Jack Bauer: For a combat soldier, the difference between success and failure is your ability to adapt to your enemy. The people that I deal with, they don’t care about your rules. All they care about is results. My job is to stop them from accomplishing their objectives. I simply adapted. In answer to your question, am I above the law? No, sir. I am more than willing to be judged by the people you claim to represent. I will let them decide what price I should pay. But please, do not sit there with that smug look on your face and expect me to regret the decisions I have made. Because sir, the truth is … I don’t. (“Day 7: 8:00am-9:00am“)
I realize these are just arguments from the minds of entertainment writers, but the questions and concerns aren’t going away because of the Pandora’s Box that Bush opened when he first uttered the words “War on Terror.” Remember his remarks from 2007:
On every battlefront we’re on the offense, keeping constant pressure. And in this war on terror, we will not rest or retreat or withdraw from the fight until this threat to civilization has been removed.
Admittedly, the extremism would have arisen and grown with or without Bush; the president simply committed the United States and its allies to the impossible task of wiping terrorism in its totality off the map. That was the critical mistake that Bush made. The threat of violence from extremists will never be removed as long as zealots and extremists cultivate the idea that a religion or a powerful leader can rise to such heights that any amount of death and suffering are justified in order to protect them. This is why John Lennon’s song, “Imagine,” was so important, and why we should never forget his lyrics:
Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people living life in peace
As long as zealots have something to kill or die for, they most certainly will because in their deluded and splintered minds, it gives them something, ironically, to live for.
I took a long drive today — specifically eight hours round trip from Tennessee to South Carolina and back — and had some time to think about exactly why I can’t, under any circumstances, morally or intellectually, understand or support the conservative program of the last, well, 32 years since I’ve been old enough to be cognizant of it.
I concluded that it is this: while progressives, Green Party members, some Democrats and others, have been champions of people — you know, human beings with pulses and feelings and a pitiable capacity for suffering under immense physical, emotional or financial stress — Republicans more or less have mostly been concerned with A) protecting the rights of inanimate religion in all its forms, squashing gay rights, squashing all abortion, sometimes even in cases of rape or incest, and protecting the right of prayer in the public square, and B) protecting the rights of inanimate state governments and inanimate corporations.
Maybe you are noticing a trend. Yes, the GOP have made some obligatory inroads in helping starving people in Africa and elsewhere in the world, but here in America since 1981, we have languished through eight years under Reagan, four under George Herbert Walker Bush and eight years under George W. Bush. What advancements have they brought to bear in health care in these 20 years in power? The answer? Not one thing. Medicare, you say? Instituted in 1965 under Lyndon Johnson, a liberal if ever there was one. Medicaid? Same year. Same president.
In fact, members of the GOP have done everything in their power to keep health care reform from happening in this nation, and that became evidently clear when not one single Congress man or woman had the balls to vote in favor with the other side of the aisle. Chief Justice John Roberts, in his recent ruling to uphold the health care bill, actually seems to be the only conservative with any semblance of a backbone in this political landscape. Conservatives, at the same time, talk about cutting spending, cutting taxing, reining in the budget, slashing regulations on corporations and kowtowing to the insurance industry, all the while wrapping themselves in the cloak of religion and claiming they care about people. Care about people? I have yet to find a “soul” whatsoever in rhetoric coming from the American right.
Honestly, I don’t know how some of them live with themselves. Sure, Medicaid and Medicare protect the health of the disabled and old people (both passed under LBJ, as I mentioned), but what about other needy people who aren’t
fortunate enough to be disabled or old? We have no problem funding public education for every single person in this country. We have no problem publicly funding police departments. Why is health care different? Shouldn’t the public funding of health care be even more important than education, since without the ability to get or pay for basic care when you get sick, a person’s education or career means nothing. Can you imagine the outcry if police departments only protected people who were disabled or more than 65 years old? What if a pregnant mother of three was abducted in a mall bathroom, and the police turned the other way because taxes aren’t set aside to protect otherwise “healthy” people. There is a clear disconnect.
So, in looking at conservatism in the last 30 years, I’ve heard a lot of rhetoric about protecting the interests of inanimate institutions that, by definition, only suffer financially and not physically, and a lot of talk about being fiscally responsible with money. It’s always money, money, money. But really, isn’t it the health of our citizens that we should be protecting above everything else?
No one, I dare say, will argue that cutting taxes and cutting government spending isn’t an admirable course of action if possible and if the body politic is already well educated, healthy and financially stable. But when either of these conditions is not met (and at least two are not met), the government, with its high call, via the Constitution, “to promote the general welfare” of the populace, should do what is necessary to meet them. I hear nothing but fiscal talk from the conservative side. Nothing about the importance of health care or ethics. Nothing about actually improving the lives of the citizenry in concrete ways. Nothing about protecting individual interests against the interests of the insurance and pharmaceutical companies. Indeed and stunningly, given all the religious talk that trots right alongside the rhetoric, it is the opposite. And until that changes in drastic ways, progressivism, with its focus on the well being of conscious creatures, is the only tenable path forward.
Thanks to John Eisenhauer @johneyes for posting this on Twitter:
When some1 talks about job creation under #Bush & #Obama show this graph: pensitoreview.com/2010/10/11/oba… | #tcot #conservative #P2 #P21 #PX #obama #ff
Here is the article and the graph:
Before I begin, let me say that I have some mixed feelings on how the Osama bin Laden case was handled. In one sense, as I will state again later, I’m glad we finally got him. On the other hand, I think his execution elevates him in the eyes of some and skirts a judicial system that is all ready in place to try individuals accused of crimes against humanity. I explain further here.
I wasn’t planning on chiming in on the bin Laden case in the first place, since it’s been covered ad nauseam in the media following his demise, but that was before I read that Pittsburgh Steelers running back Rashard Mendelhall had opined on the matter. While many NFL players were quite positive about the military finally getting bin Laden and laudatory of our men and women in uniform, Mendelhall had some rather brash things to say about Sept. 11 and bin Laden’s death.
Speaking from his Twitter account, here are a couple of his posts:
What kind of person celebrates death? It’s amazing how people can HATE a man they have never even heard speak. We’ve only heard one side…
@dkeller23 We’ll never know what really happened. I just have a hard time believing a plane could take a skyscraper down demolition style.
In these comments, Mendenhall appears to be referencing certain conspiracy theories that claim the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks were enacted by our own government, that the World Trade Center buildings were imploded artificially and that the whole thing was a farce. I will not speak on the absurd notion that the Sept. 11 attacks might have been executed by our own government as an excuse to invade Iraq. I will concede that George W. Bush was exceedingly incompetent as a leader and probably led us into a war with Iraq on false pretenses, but even I can’t indict Bush for orchestrating a massive plot to raze the World Trade Center, sacrificing 3,000 Americans as an excuse to invade Baghdad.
I agree with Mendenhall that celebrating death, any death, is cause for pause, but I don’t share his religious misgivings about judging bin Laden or his crackpot suggestion that bin Laden might not have been behind 9/11. We know that he and his organization were behind the Sept. 11 attacks. This isn’t in dispute because he admitted it in 2004, lest Mendenhall or anyone else forgets. As bin Laden said at the time:
We decided to destroy towers in America. God knows that it had not occurred to our mind to attack the towers, but after our patience ran out and we saw the injustice and inflexibility of the American-Israeli alliance toward our people in Palestine and Lebanon, this came to my mind.
But celebrating bin Laden’s death is misguided for a different reason: as hinted at earlier, I’m not convinced that we should have killed the man in the first place or at least not without a trial. First, his death may incite future attacks, possibly more so than would have his capture and trial, and second, because we actually did him a favor by cutting his life short or at least based on his religious worldview and the worldview of his followers. By killing him, we essentially raised bin Laden to martyr status in the eyes of fringe Muslims and members of al-Queda.
According to this report from The Atlantic, the official story about what happened in the minutes leading up to bin Laden’s death was either misleading or an outright untruth. The original story was that bin Laden was killed amid a firefight, which implies that he was armed and putting members of a U.S. operatives group in harm’s way, thus leading American forces to fire on him. We now know, however, that bin Laden was unarmed when SEALs personnel shot him in the head and chest. As The Atlantic story says:
A high-ranking military officer briefed on the assault said the SEALs knew their mission was not to take him alive.
The public stance from the White House, however, is that the ops group would have taken him alive if they had the opportunity. It seems to me if he was unarmed, the SEALs would have had that opportunity, whether bin Laden was belligerent with them or not. The Atlantic article also implies that if the U.S. had captured bin Laden alive, an ensuing trial would have been a bureacratic and diplomatic boondoggle:
Capturing bin Laden alive would have also presented the administration with an array of nettlesome legal and political challenges. …
A bin Laden trial, even before a military tribunal at Guantanamo Bay, would have attracted enormous media attention, potentially giving the terror mastermind a high-profile platform for spreading his extremist views, and also could have inspired more terrorist attacks.
Boondoggle or not, the Obama administration is beginning to look more and more like the cavalier, let’s-go-get-’em outfit that presided over the last administration or, perhaps, even more so, since the Bush administration at least captured some suspected terrorists and informants, rather than cutting a fiery path of “justice” across the Middle East. The American ethos, of course, favors the approach that we took, which is to go after bin Laden with the intention of killing him. I won’t go so far as to say Obama purposefully took that course of action to help his election chances in 2012 (because he knows most Americans wanted bin Laden dead), but no other president can claim to have killed the mastermind behind the deadliest act of terror ever exacted against the United States. So, I think it will certainly play a significant role in his reelection chances.
Whether or not killing him was legal not (related article), refusing to try him like any other criminal presents other ethical problems. Michael Moore made a cogent point this week on Piers Morgan Tonight. He said that even high-ranking Nazi officials, who were at least partially, indirectly or directly, responsible for the murder of millions of Jews, received a trial and were not just executed firing-line style.
Or, in Moore’s words:
I just feel … we’ve lost something of our soul here in this country. And maybe I’m just an old-school American who believes in our American judicial system, something that separates us from other parts, other countries, where we say everybody has their day in court no matter how bad of a person, no matter what piece of scum they are. They have a right to a trial.
The question then becomes: should modern terrorists be treated more harshly than other war criminals like the Nazis? I think most anyone would have trouble making the case. Hitler and the surviving SS members had millions of people’s blood on their hands. Bin Laden had 3,000 Americans. Does just one American equal thousands of European Jews, thus justifying killing terrorists who harm Americans rather than putting them on trial like we did the Nazis?
Let’s work it out mathematically. By this wayward logic, if we take the 6 million Jews killed in Europe and the 3,000 people killed in New York and equated them, what would we find? We would find by simple division that the death of just one American would equal 2,000 Jews in Europe (6,000,000/3,000). Or, to put it another way, to kill one American means that 2,000 Jews in Europe would have to die to justify the same amount of justice. If all human beings are counted as equals, as they should be, and using the Obama administration’s line of thinking, we should have just shot all captured SS officials without batting an eye and been happy about it all the while.
But we didn’t. We allowed a group of deluded, racist and depraved individuals to have their day in court in the wake of Auschwitz, the gas chambers and the mass graves that littered the fields and towns of Europe. But when a fanatical Muslim terrorist kills 3,000 of our own, our justice system is too good for the man. Only the barrel of a gun will do. Thus, a martyr was born.
Since a trial would have surely damned bin Laden to the death penalty anyway, something about how events played out should, at least on some level, chaffe us all. Like Moore, I’m glad we finally found him, but even people who admit guilt are given a trial. Should bin Laden have been any different? It seems to me that we essentially immortalized the man by treating him as if he was somehow different than any other person charged with crimes against humanity. A trial would have said, and quite forcefully, to the rest of the world, especially to the radical Muslim world, “No! Bin Laden is no different than any other man. He will face a trial, and he will bow to the justice system like everyone else.”
We missed an important opportunity here. When celebrations break out in the streets after we gun down one of our national enemies execution-style without the use of the machinations that judge the guilt of every other mortal in the modern world, our collective soul may have, indeed, suffered an irreparable blow.
[Photo credit: Getty Images - Hundreds of Pakistani Jamaat-ud-Dawa activists prayed in Karachi for Osama bin Laden, whom they regard as a martyr.]
Tell House Speaker John Boehner that the sky is, in fact, blue, and he will invariably say it’s purple if he’s convinced himself that that’s the case. Unless, of course, he’s colorblind. Doubtful. Then again, many of us might be colorblind since some have claimed that Boehner actually isn’t white but a drab shade of orange.
But I digress. Boehner is positively convinced that the GOP’s plan to trim the federal budget and right the economy is the best measure for the nation. A Goldman Sachs report from last month says otherwise.
Here’s a snippet from a recent L.A. Times article:
Spending cuts approved by House Republicans would act as a drag on the U.S. economy, according to a Wall Street analysis that put new pressure on the political debate in Washington.
The report by the investment firm Goldman Sachs said the cuts would reduce the growth in gross domestic product by up to 2 percentage points this year, essentially cutting in half the nation’s projected economic growth for 2011.
The analysis, prepared for the firm’s clients, represents the first independent economic assessment of the congressional budget fight, which could lead to a government shutdown as early as next week.
The Republican plan to slash $61 billion from the budget would cut estimated growth for this year in half.
Ever the stubborn one, Boehner, through a spokesman, said the Goldman Sachs report represented “the same outdated Washington mind-set” as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 that pumped about $800 billion in federal funds into the economy during the worst recession since the Great Depression. While many experts at the time said the measure did not go far enough — Paul Krugman at the time said
… it’s widely believed that political considerations led to a plan that was weaker and contains more tax cuts than it should have — that Mr. Obama compromised in advance in the hope of gaining broad bipartisan support.
— the influx of new capital into the economy obviously helped to stabilize markets. If the GOP had gotten its way at the time, presumably by cutting taxes for the wealthiest among us, supporting more deregulation and simply allowing the economy to self-correct, there’s no telling how deep the ship would have sunk.
Below is a graph from the AP on the budget deficit (or surplus) since the Reagan years. The budget under Obama’s watch is estimated to begin moving closer toward the center in a few years. Clinton presided over the only surplus in recent memory, after inheriting a deficit from Mr. Trickle Down’s heir apparent, H.W. Bush.
It is a sad commentary on where we stand as a nation 130 years after slavery, thirty years beyond Jim Crow, and twenty-five years since Nixon played his piano at the Gridiron Club that our current chief executive, arguably the least prejudiced of the forty-one men who preceded him, sees fit to include racial calculus in politics and policy. — Kenneth O’Reilly, “Nixon’s Piano,” 1995, on former President Bill Clinton((1))
The story of race and the American Presidency is one in which, almost without exception, the 42 white men who led the United States prior to Obama’s election courted the white vote at the expense of minority interests and civil rights, so much so that not only did the early Southern economy stand on the shoulders of black folks, the highest office in the land did as well.
Kenneth O’Reilly in “Nixon’s Piano: Presidents and Racial Politics from Washington to Clinton,” doesn’t quite make it to that far-reaching conclusion, but this is the impression I got after giving some thought to this studiously researched and chilling look at how our American presidents dealt with issues of race while in office.
From the outset, readers find out how the early presidents, many of them slaveholders, recognized that the peculiar institution would eventually have to fall or that blacks would have to be colonized elsewhere (a ludicrous notion) — vanquish the thought that the two races could ever co-exist as free people — but they largely had neither the courage or the will to set the process of emancipation or civil rights in motion.
John Adams, the second president and one of the more pragmatic and close-reasoning Founders (He was the British’s defense lawyer following the Boston Massacre when no one else would take up the cause because he adamantly believed every [white] man deserved a fair trial) was probably ahead of his time when he said,
I shudder when I think of the calamities which slavery is likely to produce in this country. You would think me mad if I were to describe my anticipations. If the gangrene is not stopped I can see nothing but insurrection of the blacks against the whites.((2))
As it turns out, he had it precisely the other way around, with a white man, John Brown, pulling the grenade pin that would eventually explode into war and white slaveholders seceding to protect their precious institution. Regardless, Adams, unlike many of his co-Founders, held no slaves, but nonetheless, the thought of freeing black people chaffed him with the thought of widespread chaos. He was for the preservation of his beloved nation if he was for anything. As O’Reilly quotes Adams about a state proposal in Massachusetts:
The Bill for freeing the Negroes, I hope will sleep for a Time. We have Causes enough of Jealousy Discord Division, and this Bill will certainly add to the Number.
Abigail Adams, the rock-steady engine that fueled John’s heart, was probably even more progressive than her husband, calling slavery a “most iniquitous Scheme” which caused the “daily robbing and plundering from those who have as good a right to freedom as we have.” Again, another Adams ahead of her time.
John’s personal views aside, the president was silent on the issue in public, and like his predecessors and many successors, was hamstrung on how to proceed.
The only complaint I have of O’Reilly’s book at this point is that it seems to spend too little time on the early presidents, devoting only one chapter to a cursory look at the record of the first 24 presidents, then vaunting readers all the way to the start of the 20th century by page 63. This is understandable in one sense given the fact that, aside from Lincoln and John Adams, the early presidents were mostly indistinguishable in regard to their views or actions on race while in office. Still, although more discussion on the early presidents would have taken this 400-page book closer to 1,000 pages, I think it would have given more credence to the book’s subtitle.
In the 20th century, readers see the rise of the progressive movement, first as represented by the Republican Party, still under the banner of Lincoln, and later, by the Democratic Party and Lyndon Johnson in his attempts to loose the nation from its Jim Crow and Black Code shackles. And even then, Johnson’s signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and 1968 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 seemed to be motivated as much by political pressures as any moral yearnings to finally award blacks their hard-won political and social freedom. For O’Reilly, Lincoln and Johnson’s civil rights records were tainted by other considerations:
Of the forty-two presidents of the United States only Lincoln and Lyndon Johnson stand out for what they ultimately did on the matter of civil rights for all. But even they brought baggage to their great accomplishments: Lincoln with his white supremacist caveats, closet dreams of sending the slaves he freed back to Africa, and faint Reconstruction notion of building a decent Republican party home for the South’s poor white trash at the expense of any freedman he could not ship to Liberia; and Johnson with his surveillance state (that gave the FBI et al. free run at an entire race by ranking blacks alongside Communists and criminals) and Vietnam draft boards (that always came first for the people at the bottom he otherwise seemed so intent on helping).
On the latter, Johnson once said that young blacks were best served in the armed services rather than by the social programs and civil rights acts he had created.
Johnson once told Roy Wilkins (a civil rights activist), while still vice-president, that all mothers want the same thing for their children. But he never quite understood that no mother, black or white, wanted her son to fight and die in a Southeast Asia jungle (Vietnam) for a reason that the president himself could not articulate. “I’ve seen these kids all my life,” he (Johnson) told his cabinet two months before (the) Tet (Offensive). “I’ve been with these poor children everywhere. I know that you can do better by them than the NYA (National Youth Administration) or the Job Corps. Defense Department can do the job best. Go to it.”
So the two best civil rights presidents we ever had were only marginally courageous in their deeds. In total, I thought O’Reilly presented a devastating critique of the more conservative presidents on the issue of race (Most of their records on the matter are utterly disgraceful, after all), but of the more progressive presidents, O’Reilly showed how they either tempered how far they were willing to go on the question of race or scaled back their civil rights efforts once elected.
Bill Clinton would be an example of the latter. As O’Reilly noted, Clinton the teenager once told his mother that segregation was a sin and that he admired Martin Luther King. He even memorized King’s “I Have A Dream” speech, helped himself to a seat at the “black” table in 1971 at Yale Law School and performed volunteer work for a New Haven, Conn., lawyer working on civil rights cases. As president, however, he played a different tune, but not the one that vaulted him to presidential coolness as the sunglass-wearing sax player on “The Arsenio Hall Show.”
Other than appearances in black churches, where he was at home, like Jimmy Carter … Clinton emphasized race as a nonissue from the primaries forward. He kept black advisers in the background, made no promises, accepted the nomination at a Democratic National Convention that had two hundred fewer black delegated than in 1988, and timed his rare appearances at black events so that they would be too late for the evening news or overshadowed by other events.
If only O’Reilly would or could have written an updated version of his book to include the administration that led for eight years after Clinton. If he had, O’Reilly’s modern edition would have surely mentioned George W. Bush and FEMA’s woeful 2005 response to the hurricane in New Orleans. Like Reagan before him, Bush was labeled a racist. For Reagan, because of his general policies (For instance, poor folks need not concern themselves with capital gains tax cuts, as O’Reilly notes), and for Bush, because of the response to Katrina. I’m sure there were other accusers, but most notably, rapper Kanye West made the charge in the wake of FEMA’s response and Bush’s delayed trip to New Orleans, which has a black population of about 70 percent. Later, Bush described that moment (West labeling him as a racist) as the worst part of his time in Washington. Here’s a brief exchange from the “Today” show:
MATT LAUER: You remember what he (Kanye West) said?
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Yes, I do. He called me a racist.
MATT LAUER: Well, what he said, “George Bush doesn’t care about black people.”
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: That’s — “he’s a racist.” And I didn’t appreciate it then. I don’t appreciate it now. It’s one thing to say, “I don’t appreciate the way he’s handled his business.” It’s another thing to say, “This man’s a racist.” I resent it, it’s not true, and it was one of the most disgusting moments in my Presidency.
Later still, Kanye, in not so few words, said he was sorry in November 2010 on the “Today” show:
I would tell George Bush in my moment of frustration, I didn’t have the grounds to call him a racist.
And Bush back across the bow on another episode of “Today”:
Asked if he forgives West, Bush said “absolutely.”
“I’m not a hater. I don’t hate Kanye West,” he said. “But I was talking about an environment in which people were willing to say things that hurt. Nobody wants to be called a racist, if in your heart you believe in the equality of race.”
There’s much more to be said, of course, and O’Reilly says most of it in the eras in which he was dealing. Ronald Reagan had one of the worst records on race and so did Richard Nixon, hence the piano symbolism, which stems from a racially mocking song Nixon performed at a Gridiron Club event while president. The analogy was later — consciously or not — turned on its head by Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder’s “Ebony and Ivory.”
If O’Reilly had the chance to cover the election of the first African American to the presidency, his ultimate conclusions might have taken a slightly different tone, for, the more progressive among us would like to think that we as a nation are finally turning the corner on race. But, like the Reagan appointment of Republican lackey Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court, we today can see some of the same conservative tactics astir of putting black people in high places only for political gain. Current Republican National Committee head Michael Steele immediately came to mind as I read the portion on Thomas. Of course, black folks are free to lean whichever political way they choose, but we know which party, since the 1960s has, implicitly or explicitly, done the most for civil rights and black communities, even though affluent black leaders may overlook that fact and politically betray their historically subdued brethren. Modern Republicans leaders, in turn, betray themselves when they refer to their party as the party of Lincoln, for it is such in word only.
In all, “Nixon’s Piano” was an intriguing, but challenging read, given the many politicians, aides and activists of which one must keep track. The book moves quickly, with clearly written but tightly packed text, providing a near fly-on-the-wall look at each president’s approach to race from Roosevelt to Clinton, with private conversations, leaked and even wire-tapped exchanges, all of which culminate in the numbing conclusion that a scant few, if any, of our presidents felt that civil rights or racial, social and political equality for all was an outright moral imperative.
“Simply put, as the clock runs out of on the administration’s term in office, would-be Cinderellas—including the president, cabinet officers, and agency heads—work assiduously to promulgate regulations before they turn back into ordinary citizens at the stroke of midnight.” — former Mercatus Center scholar Jay Cochran
As if the blunders of Katrina weren’t enough. If illegally invading a country without provocation wasn’t enough, Bush, as seems to be the trend among outgoing presidentsawakened to the reality that their party no longer has control (at least for four years), seems to be doing his darndest to make a mess of things with his 12th-hour regulations. Here are a fewgems from OMB Watch. I recommend following the link for a large list. My remarks in parenthesis.
Mountaintop mining, Office of Surface Mining (Interior) — The rule would allow mining companies to dump the waste (i.e. excess rock and dirt) from mountaintop mining into rivers and streams. …
Endangered species consultation, Department of the Interior — The rule would alter implementation of the Endangered Species Act by allowing federal land-use managers to approve projects like infrastructure creation, minerals extraction, or logging without consulting federal habitat managers and biological health experts responsible for species protection. Currently, consultation is required. …
Air pollution near national parks, Environmental Protection Agency — The rule would ease current restrictions that make it difficult for power plants to operate near national parks and wilderness areas. … (The Bush Administration said this rule was withdrawn and would not finalized. Thank goodness!)
Runoff from factory farms,Environmental Protection Agency — Under the rule, concentrated animal feeding operations, i.e. factory farms, could allow farm runoff to pollute waterways without a permit. The rule circumvents the Clean Water Act, instead allowing for self-regulation. (Nice!) …
Drug and alcohol testing for miners, Mine Safety and Health Administration — The rule would require mine operators to test employees in “safety-sensitive” positions for drug and alcohol use. (This is a good one, I suppose.) …
Actually, the rule lifts the ban on carrying, not just loaded, but concealed weapons. Hunters, of course, pack heat in national forests all the time, but not in national parks. In its continual show of ignorant, rabble-rousing, gun-clutching mentality, the NRA made this statement: “‘We are pleased that the Interior Department recognizes the right of law-abiding citizens to protect themselves and their families while enjoying America’s national parks and wildlife refuges,’” said Chris Cox, the National Rifle Association’s chief lobbyist.” and this statement: “Gun rights advocates, notably the National Rifle Assn., have said the ban infringes on their 2nd Amendment rights to bear arms and their ability to defend themselves from predators, both human and animal. (the Los Angeles Times) The Second Amendment seems to me to be more a reference to military usage of arms, rather than civilian, as the newly formed country had just dispatched the British and were debating how best to protect the rights and freedoms of its citizenry from invading governments (as in the British). The Oxford English Dictionary defines “to bear arms” as “to serve as a soldier, do military service, fight.” But I won’t have the time to flesh this argument out at the moment. In either case, perhaps the Founders should have been more explicit.
But that debate rages on. Bush, in his last days in office, is dining with $499 bottles of wine on summits supposedly about the troubled economy, kissing veterans and doing more harm than good in handing down these midnight “rules” that, at the stroke of midnight, while Bush has turned back into a regular Joe (OK, he will never be a regular Joe, but you get the metaphor), will remain, leaving Barack Obama to pick up the pieces.
(CNN) – The global economy may be undergoing a significant downturn, but the White House’s dinner budget still appears flush with cash.
After all, world leaders who are in town to discuss the economic crisis are set to dine in style Friday night while sipping wine listed at nearly $500 a bottle.
According to the White House, tonight’s dinner to kick off the G-20 summit includes such dishes as “Fruitwood-smoked Quail,” “Thyme-roasted Rack of Lamb,” and “Tomato, Fennel and Eggplant Fondue Chanterelle Jus.”
To wash it all down, world leaders will be served Shafer Cabernet “Hillside Select” 2003, a wine that sells at $499 on Wine.com.
The exceedingly pricey wine may seem a bit peculiar given leaders are in Washington to discuss a possible world financial meltdown, but Sally McDonough, a spokeswoman for Laura Bush, said it “was the most appropriate wine that we had in the White House wine cellar for such a gathering.
McDonough also said the White House purchased the wine at a “significantly lower price” than what it is listed at.
“Of course the White House gets its wine at wholesale prices,” she said. “Given the intimate size of the group, it was an appropriate time for The White House to use this stock.”
The leaders of the U.K., France, Russia, China, India, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey and 11 developing economies have all come to Washington at the behest of President Bush in an effort to express confidence in the fundamental underpinnings of the world’s economy.
Not much in the way of comment here, for this story speaks for itself. It speaks volumes as to how folks with much in the coffers in this country (and others) are unwilling to sacrifice anything whatsoever for the good of all. I point to the automaker CEO’s private jet rides to Washington several weeks ago and their subsequent actual car rides to Washington a couple weeks later, which amounted to not much more than throwing a dog a bone. They weren’t repentant. They weren’t suddenly concerned with the working man’s plight. They were concerned with their image.
So, here we have the Bushes providing $499/bottle wine to world leaders who came to the G-20 summit to discuss the economic crisis. Irony barely even touches the surface. “Given the intimate size of the group, it was an appropriate time for The White House to use this stock,” Laura Bush spokeswoman Sally McDonough said.
This stock? Give us a break. A stock that cost 500 bucks? While engaging in their polite dialogue about the sorry state of the world economy over $500 wine, did it ever occur to them that such extravagance sure could have went a long way to help a working family make ends meet. That $500 sure could have went to feed a family of four for at least a month or two. But nah, dignitaries can’t be concerned with all that. They, intrinsically, need the best of the best. Dignitaries who gathered to discuss a floundering economy that has rendered thousands jobless and homeless are above such sacrifices and have more to worry about than the jobless, hungry children, women and children down the block. To think about how $500 (How many bottles were consumed at the summit?) could have helped a real family make ends meet or feed hungry children is, frankly, shameful, for it was only wasted frivolously and unnecessarily.
Bush greets 2 Marines, gives them kisses
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Bush stopped on the White House South Lawn to pose for a photograph with two Marines who served in Iraq — and planted a kiss on the head of each.
After climbing down from his Marine One helicopter, Bush walked toward the White House, then stopped and approached the Marines, one of whom was in a wheelchair. The president greeted Lance Cpl. Patrick Pittman Jr., of Savannah, Ga., and Lance Cpl. Marc Olson, of Coal City, Ill.
Bush directed aides to turn Pittman’s wheelchair around. Instead, Pittman stood next to the president for the photograph. They were joined by Olson’s mother, Pinky Kloski.
Bush had a few words for the two Marines as they stood on either side, then kissed each on the top of the head.
Kloski said the two were injured while serving in Ramadi.
Earlier in the day, the president had traveled to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point to speak about the military and strategy during his tenure as commander in chief. — The Associated Press
Democratic pundits and WordPressers may have a field day with this picture, but I think it’s quite extraordinary. When was the last time an American president actually kissed a soldier, or anyone, as a sign of deep gratitude and compassion? Say what you will: Bush is trying to salve his bruised legacy of sending thousands into harm’s way and death to fight a war that shouldn’t have been waged or authorized. He, by a level of dishonesty, got us into the current mess in the Middle East and will leave it to the next president to lick the wounds and repair our tattered PR with the rest of the world. He’s simply making a last push, a final claim to his legacy.
But discard the conjecture for a second. What male in American society kisses another male, unless, perhaps they are related, as in a father to son, or homosexual? I may hug my closest, lifelong male friend, but kissing them goes a step too far, and we both know it. While it may be commonplace in other European or Asian societies, it is not commonplace here, and to take it a step further would be taboo. For Bush to kiss a veteran as in this picture speaks to something else.
Many would disagree with me (Many, in fact, think he’s one of those most heartless presidents we have ever had.), but I think, a) he is aware that he has made mistakes, b) that he is human (and this pretty well assumes that he will make mistakes) and c) that he is sincere on many levels. I think he sincerely loves his country, loves freedom and is truly grateful for the service of the men and women he has sent into battle. I think he mourns (and probably holds a level of guilt) for those who have suffered death or physical maladies on his watch. And this kiss finds its impetus here. Again, believe what you will, that he isn’t the smartest cracker in the cabinet, that he is actually a terrorist himself or even that’s he’s calculatingly headstrong on policies that have proved to be errant, but at the core, for all his miscomings, I think he’s sincere, and I think that is evident in this photo.