The Watering Hole, Thursday, November 8th, 2012: “Political Capital”

George W. Bush appears to have had a long-term “thing” about “political capital. From Slate, November 2004:

“Bush has long been smitten with the notion of getting and spending “political capital.” In December 2000, Time asked him, “What did you learn about being president from watching your father?” Bush’s answer: “I learned how to earn political capital and how to spend it.” The interview continued:
TIME: You think he didn’t spend it well late in his term?
BUSH: I think he did not. History has shown that he had some capital in the bank that was not properly spent.”

…and…

“…during an interview with Tim Russert on Meet the Press in 1999. Bush told Russert he would spend “capital” on his plan for Social Security.”  [Yes, we remember his cross-country "Privatize Social Security Tour" (sigh)]

W’s first press conference after his re-election, on November 4, 2004, has a couple of gems when viewed an eternity later (2012):

On “political capital”:

PRESIDENT BUSH:
I feel — I feel — I feel it is necessary to move an agenda that I told the American people I would move…you go out and you make your case and you tell the people, “This is what I intend to do.” And after hundreds of speeches and three debates and interviews and the whole process, where you keep basically saying the same thing over and over again, that when — when that — when you win, there is a — a feeling that the people have spoken and embraced your point of view. And that’s what I intend to tell the Congress, that I made it clear what I intend to do as the president; now let’s work — and the people made it clear what they wanted — now let’s work together. And it’s one of the wonderful — it’s one of the — it’s like earning capital. … I earned capital in the campaign, political capital, and now I intend to spend it. It is my style. That’s what happened in — after the 2000 election. I earned some capital. I’ve earned capital in this election, and I’m going to spend it for — for what — what I told the people I’d spend it on…

On the supposedly all-important Deficit:

“Q Thank you, sir. Many within your own party are unhappy over the deficit, and they say keeping down discretional spending alone won’t help you reach your goal of halving the deficit in five years. What else do you plan to do to cut costs? [emphasis mine]
PRESIDENT BUSH: (Chuckles.) Well, I — I — you know, I would suggest they look at our budget that we’ve submitted to Congress, which does in fact get the deficit cut in half in five years. And it is a specific, line-by-line budget that we are required to submit, and have done so.

The key to making sure that the deficit is reduced is for there to be on the one hand spending discipline — and I — as you noticed in my opening remarks, I talked about these appropriations bills that are beginning to move. And I thought I was pretty clear about the need for those bills to be — to be fiscally responsible, and I meant it…

The revenues are exceeding projections, and as a result the projected deficit is less. But my point there is is that — so with — with good economic policy that encourages economic growth, the revenue streams begin to increase. And as the revenue streams increase coupled with fiscal discipline, you’ll see the deficit shrinking, and we’re focused on that.”

Now, I have been puzzled about this whole “political capital” idea since I originally saw George W. Bush swagger and leer about it. Back then, the other election buzzword was “mandate”, as in “the re-election of GWB proved that he has a ‘mandate’ from the American people,” even though only a little more than half of the American people had actually voted for him. I’ve never seen Democratic Presidents utilize this reasoning; nor would I actually expect them to do so, for the same reason why I would never use the term “landslide” to describe a win of only a few percentage points.

Three questions:

-Using Bush’s “political capital” logic, shouldn’t President Obama have now earned some of his own, to spend on doing what he promised America he would do?
-Would Republicans and the TV cheerleaders at Faux News admit that President Obama had earned “political capital” to spend, since he had won a “mandate” from the people? …and…
-Will President Obama and the Democrats ignore the Republican obstructionists and actually try to spend that “political capital”?

This is our daily open thread–what do you think?

The Death of a Nation (a retrospective on the W. Bush era, Part 10: END PAPERS)

The George W. Bush presidency ended on January 20, 2009 with the inauguration of the 44th American President, Barack H. Obama. Hope sprang eternal that times had finally changed, that the American electorate had finally awakened from the fog of its deep sleep, that a new era had indeed finally dawned. Unfortunately, such was not to prove the case. The Republican Party immediately went on the defensive and vowed, essentially, to use every last shred of their power, their influence, to cause Obama to fail . . . the more miserable the failure, the better. It was an act of national disloyalty, perhaps bordering even on treason, the likes of which no living American had ever seen, much less pondered. And while Obama did manage to implement a few meaningful projects and programs in his first couple of years, the Republicans were, by and large, successful in their opposition.

Then, in 2010, the Supreme Court issued its decision in the Citizens United case and declared, in effect, that corporations were ‘people’ with all attendant rights and privileges. Days later, the final purchase of the government by private funds began in earnest. In November of 2010, the small Democratic majority in the House of Representatives was overturned, and the filibuster-resistant Democratic majority in the Senate was reduced sufficiently to virtually guarantee that no significant legislation could be passed for at least the balance of Obama’s first (and, in the hopeful eyes of the GOP, his ONLY) four year term.

Today, the processes implicit in the Death of a Nation continue to accelerate without pause as we again stand on the edge of an electoral abyss not at all dissimilar to those of 2000 and 2004. The current Romney-Ryan Republican ticket supports without hesitation or critique virtually each and all of the nonsensical policies of George W. Bush, including unlimited aggressive war, the destruction/elimination of every vestige of the social safety net, the eternal task of improving the financial status of the extremely rich at the expense of everyone else, and state level imposition of whichever manner of voter suppression or voter fraud might be required to guarantee for all time an enduring Fascist-theocracy (aka ‘conservative’ Republican) style of American “governance”, the Constitution be damned.

The bottom line is simple: tomorrow — Tuesday, November 6 2012 — we shall learn, finally and for certain, the precise percentage of mental incompetence which has come to define the American  electorate.

Meanwhile, below are a few closing comments alongside a wealth of quotations on the matter of national death and its consequences. From Gandhi to John Denver with plenty of George W. Bush and Adolf Hitler (among numerous others) in between, a summation lurks.

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End Papers
(April, 2005)

The United States of America clearly stands on the precipice, on the very edge of a deep and dark chasm in which lie the ruins of those who have come before us, now forever gone.  On previous pages here, we have (barely) skimmed the essences of America’s current dilemma and made some note of current players, agendas, and the realities their combination have so far imposed. Others, too, have watched these same forces at work and have added their comments.  Perhaps a review of a few – in no particular order – can assist in clarifying the moment by looking at opinions, past and present, which have bearing on what has been and what is now, in order to help predict what might yet come our way.  To some, the list may seem long, but they should rest assured it is exhaustingly abbreviated and is by no means complete – yet its words paint a picture, a frightening picture.  Read on, that which others have said; I shall add a brief comment at the end. Continue reading

The Death of a Nation (a retrospective on the W. Bush era, Part 9: THE CEDING OF GOVERNMENT)

Below is the final essay in my compilation which I collectively entitled The Death of a Nation. It was written in March, 2005, shortly after George W. Bush’s second inauguration.  Sadly, not much has changed in the nearly eight ensuing years. Today, in fact, on the veritable eve of the election of 2012, we as a nation are STILL faced with the possibility of what would be, in effect, a return to the policies of the W. Bush era, policies which failed so miserably but which still evoke obvious favor (and fervor) from corporate and ‘power/wealth’ entities.

(Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6Part 7, Part 8)

Will the voting public vote to continue the insanity, or will it — FINALLY — vote to reverse those insipid ‘conservative’ trends by returning full control of both Congress and the White House to that cluster of clear-thinkers that stands for The People and not for special interests? Time will tell, but one fact remains certain: any return to the failed policies of the W. Bush era will guarantee one thing: the process which WILL be the prime mover in The Death of (this) Nation will be accelerated to breakneck speed.

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The Ceding of Government

“The market economy is not everything. It must find its place in a higher order of things which is not ruled by supply and demand, free prices and competition. It must be firmly contained within an all-embracing order of society in which the imperfections and harshness of economic freedom are corrected by law and in which man is not denied conditions of life appropriate to his nature.”
 (Wilhelm Roepke, “Austrian” Economist)

I cite the Roepke quote because I’m rather fond of paradoxes, and a close examination of Roepke’s words seems to point at one (though I’m sure he didn’t so intend).  Roepke begins by stating the obvious, i.e., “The market economy is not everything . . .”  True enough.  The market economy ideally serves the physical needs of a given culture by providing such things as food, housing, tools, technology, and leisure entertainment for the public to enjoy, as well as work which is exchanged for a common medium of exchange (e.g. dollars), which in turn can be used to purchase goods from the marketplace which the buyer needs or desires to own.  Beyond that niche, the market economy is not worth much at all, especially when it comes to spiritual matters, or matters of morality, law, etc.  For those, people must look elsewhere.

“It must find its place in a higher order of things which is not ruled by supply and demand, free prices and competition . . .”  Not so sure what he means here, at least in the so-called ‘Austrian’ context, but it does remain a fact that America’s market economy continues to evolve rapidly in ways which would, one might assume, change the fundamental and familiar supply-demand dynamics.  In the first place, America produces very little in the way of consumer goods anymore.  Anyone who doubts that should read the labels next time they visit the hardware store, department store, shoe store, etc. – “Made in USA” labels are rare as hen’s teeth these days.  That of course means that the manufacturing jobs are no longer in the US but rather have been ‘outsourced’ instead.  Levi Strauss, in fact, moved their entire operation out of the US, and now the bulk of their blue jeans are manufactured in Mexico.  They’re still sold in the US, of course, and look no different than they ever did; I assume the asking price is about the same as before which would allow a bit more profit for Strauss. Continue reading

The Death of a Nation (a retrospective on the W. Bush era, Part 8: CORPORATE)

The corporate influence on the (s)election of George W. Bush in 2000 (and in 2004, for that matter) was minimal compared with today’s corporate influences on elections, such disparity mostly thanks to the 2010 SCOTUS decision on the Citizens United case in which corporations were essentially granted the status of ‘people’ along with all the ‘rights’ implicit and inherent therein. And it’s been downhill ever since.

(Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7)

Today the trend is to move ever faster on the rapidly steepening slope that leads to the bottom of the abyss, the abyss defined by (and littered with) the remains of national collapse. Thus far and in this current 2012 election cycle, for example, the two campaigns have each spent over a billion dollars, the bulk of which was contributed by now unrestricted corporate interests and associated extremely wealthy individuals, each with axes to grind, and all with lots and lots of dogs in the political hunt. Very little of substance has shown itself in the campaign for the presidency, but the lies — particularly from the Romney ticket — have been constant and profuse. The current system stands as living proof that when funding is unlimited, so is the volume of baloney being served. The situation is, in a word, nonsensical.

Solutions? Overturn the Citizens United decision, either by legislation, by constitutional amendment, or by further judicial review (providing the current conservative majority on the Supreme Court can be finally reversed by upcoming presidential appointments); mandate public funding as the ONLY allowable source of electioneering capital; begin immediately the daunting task of educating the populace of the future in the reasons which underlie and which should DEFINE (and mandate) ethical behavior. In other words, redefine politics.

To refer to such process as a ‘daunting task’ is, indeed, a massive understatement.

Following are some (circa March, 2005) remarks and comments based on simple observation of the then-current dilemma brought forth by the vicious combination of power and politics via corporate agenda and money. Interesting how far we’ve slipped in the not-quite eight years since elapsed, but one thing remains certain: the future is ever more visible from the present — and it doesn’t look good.

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Corporate

 “Herein lies a riddle: How can a people so gifted by God become so seduced by naked power, so greedy for money, so addicted to violence, so slavish before mediocre and treacherous leadership, so paranoid, deluded, lunatic?” (Philip Berrigan)

Well, let’s see.  Maybe before we try to answer that we should come up with an example or two, some sort of marker which might suggest that links exist between business and political corruption.  Hmmm.  This could be tricky.  Oh well, in no particular order, since Bush took his first oath in January, 2001, a few come to mind:

1.    Halliburton Inc., VP Dick Cheney’s former employer (he was CEO), was apparently guaranteed a multi-billion dollar no-bid contract to rebuild Iraq – before the war even started.
2.    The White House knew in advance that the actual cost of the new (politically-expedient) Medicare bill (the one which gifted Big Pharma to the tune of roughly $140 billion) was going to exceed the amount listed for Congress to authorize by nearly a third, but invoked their own version of the Omerta code to keep it secret till after the bill was signed into law.
3.    Junk science – the forced result or the behind-the-scenes altering of research findings in ways which favor business (at the expense of scientific integrity and even public safety) has become a common practice.  The latest examples are typical: “Mercury isn’t really THAT dangerous” and “Yucca Mountain is a perfectly SAFE place to dispose of nuclear waste” – so long, that is, as no one looks too closely at the data.  Data?  What data?  Now where did I put that report?  It was here a minute ago.  Oh, well, what the hell. We all know it said what we wanted it to say – we ordered it be done that way.
4.    The so-called Healthy Forests Act did nothing at all to develop healthy forests; au contraire, instead it effectively re-opened to road construction the nearly sixty million remaining acres of old growth forest which Clinton had declared roadless, i.e. opened to the timber industry and logging, and eventually to motorized recreationalists (read: four wheelers, quads, dirt bikes, ete.). Continue reading

The Death of a Nation (a retrospective on the W. Bush era, Part 6: MILITARY)

The essay which follows was written in March, 2005, and remains, (admittedly) at best, a superficial overview: a (potentially futile) attempt to at least suggest that the aggressive militarism of the United States which bubbled to the surface quite rapidly in G.W. Bush’s first term was not only bad, but dangerous as well.  Sadly, to this day the war horror of that period continues with the USA still involved in what has now become the longest war in America’s insanely war-stained history: the war in Afghanistan.

Military. War. During my lifetime, the ‘known’ wars and (aggressive) “skirmishes” with American participation include (but are in no way presumed, herein, to be limited to): the Second World War; Korea; Cuba; Vietnam; Chile; Grenada; El Salvador; Panama; Bosnia/Herzegovina; the Persian Gulf; Afghanistan; Iraq; and now (potentially) Libya, Syria, Iran . . . et al., et al.

(Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5)

War.

The Incessant Voice of War:

One wearies of incessant Voice of War.
Across full breadth of time each nom de guerre
Inflicts upon the Human soul a scar
Which screams in mockery of hallowed prayer.
How many millions must we finally kill
Before is learned this simple quirk of fate:
That murdered dead, in valley or on hill,
Do NOT portend a Greatness in The State?
Upon this Earth of monuments and tombs
Which weep for fallen souls, it’s fair to shout
NO MORE! to darkness that forever looms
In constant threat. And let there be no doubt
Of this–War’s victims hang upon the Cross
Of senseless death . . . in silent, wretched, loss.

So, whereto from here? More of the same? Are ‘we’ inextricably embedded in the muck and mire of incessant war? A look back at the policies and products of the George W. Bush presidencies is not, necessarily, encouraging. Nor is the prospect of yet another right wing Republican presence in either the Congress or, most emphatically, in the White House; e.g. Romney-Ryan. Time will tell . . . apparently. In its invariably nerve-wracking fashion.

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Military:

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron.”  ~Dwight D. Eisenhower

I include that quote not because Eisenhower was the Five-Star General who commanded the allied forces to victory in Europe during the Second World War; not because he, as President (note the use of upper case) made good on his pledge to go to Korea following his election in 1952 to find a way to stop hostilities there, and that on July 27, 1953 an armistice was signed; not because President Eisenhower, once he’d had enough of Sen. Joseph McCarthy and his bogus ‘hearings’ in search of Communists behind every tree, found a way to put a stop to the nonsense and send McCarthy back into his hole; and not because Eisenhower was a Republican who won two elections with landslide margins.  No, I include that quote in order to point to the contrasts between then and today, only fifty years apart.

Dwight D. Eisenhower was a West Pointer, a bold yet measured military man who commanded the allied forces that smashed the Nazi war machine.  He was also a firm negotiator who understood and realized the stupidity that drives men constantly to war; he was, too, a Republican. Continue reading

The Death of a Nation (a retrospective on the W. Bush era, Part 5: ENVIRONMENTAL)

Environmental destruction certainly isn’t anything new; it’s been going on, thanks to the human presence, for centuries millennia at least. Nonetheless, it really picked up speed during the first years following the W. Bush presidential (s)election of December, 2000, during which time he carried forth and invariably served “the dream” of Republicans everywhere, i.e. their unending pursuit of biosphere destruction and collapse — courtesy mainly of inborn stupidity, but always in consort with that eternal greed-based quest for evermore profit and power.

There seems little doubt that the policies of W. Bush greatly accelerated the rush toward the environmental ‘tipping point’, i.e. that moment when human-caused (global) environmental changes become permanent, when the biosphere modifies sufficiently to insist the extinction of species after species after species simply because the planet’s physiography has gradually deteriorated in ways unfriendly to the vast majority of existing life forms.

Following is a (March, 2005) review of various elements implicit in the Bush environmental travesty. Embedded may well be found an occasional ‘editorial’ comment, one which may be (properly) interpreted as being somewhat biased toward the views of the writer, an obviously passionate environmentalist-tree-hugger. Me.

Sadly, the issues which drive environmental destruction are not dead; they are, in fact, as alive today as ever, and will become exceedingly moreso should the Romney-Ryan ticket prevail on November 6, 2012.

(Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4)

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   Environmental:

“. . . with the coming of civilization the grasses and the wild flowers perish, the forest falls, and its place is taken by brambles, the mountains are blasted in the search for minerals, the plains are broken by the plow and the soil is gradually washed into the rivers.  Last of all, when the forests have gone the rains cease falling, the streams dry up, the ground parches and yields no life, and the artificial desert — the desert made by the tramp of human feet — begins to show itself. Yes; everyone must have cast a backward glance and seen Nature’s beauties beaten to ashes under the successive marches of civilization . . .” (John C. Van Dyke, ca. 1900)

It’s a non-arguable fact of life, so to speak, that the earth’s environment, especially the biosphere, the earth-atmosphere interface in which life exists, is critical to … well, it’s critical to the existence of life.  That is, of course, unless one happens to be a Bush Republican, at which point the biosphere becomes little more than just another big word, one that sounds like something a tree-hugger might speak in the same breath as ‘ecology’ or ‘endangered species';  tree-huggers: you know, those weirdos that think trees and owls and undeveloped land are worth more than the money they can bring in.

I would only wish that last statement be hyperbole and not an understated fact.

There’s but one way to say it charitably:  George W. Bush is the most environmentally destructive president this nation has ever had, bar none.  To read of his actions, or even to watch him attempt to circuitously lie his way out of the environmental atrocities which he’s heaped up around himself and across the nation is to realize that here must surely stand a man devoid of character, devoid of soul.  How else, after all, to explain such solicitous contempt for one’s only home?  It’s sometimes difficult to imagine the origins of those who are so callous; it’s difficult to ponder how it is that anyone can devolve sufficiently to exist as if a completely vacant lot, a slab of such emptiness, a shallowness so deep that nothing – not even the barest weed of life can manage to wend its way to the surface. Continue reading

The Death of a Nation (a retropspective on the W. Bush era, Part 4: SOCIAL)

Society’s obligations to itself — education and the protection of its people in and by social safety nets — have been under “conservative” attack for about as long as there have been “conservatives” embedded in the power structure.  Interesting that today we call it (the politic) “conservatism” when historians still refer to the near-identical policy/philosophy as Feudalism. Still, by whichever name, ‘it’ continues its creep, its infestation, in human cultures around the globe, including here in the US.

The “creep” picked up speed following the presidential selection of George W. Bush in December, 2000. During his first four years, the tools of suppression were stealthily put into place, and there they remain to this day.  And as bizarre as suppression/privatization of education might seem; as backward and ‘feudal’ as destruction of the social safety net might be; the current “conservative” candidate for president, Mitt Romney, campaigns on doing exactly that (well, at least sometimes he so indicates, although he quite often changes his stated “position” within any given hour).

In any case, below is an early 2005 review of Bush social policies and their probable/potential (intended?) impact. If it all sounds hard to believe, Mitt Romney can surely clarify. Probably he has, actually.

(Part 1, Part 2, Part 3)

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Social:

“The [government] must put the most modern medical means in the service of this knowledge…. Those who are physically and mentally unhealthy and unworthy must not perpetuate their suffering in the body of their children…. The prevention of the faculty and opportunity to procreate on the part of the physically degenerate and mentally sick, over a period of only 600 years, would … free humanity from an immeasurable misfortune.”  ~Adolph Hitler

Government involvement in social issues is, in any nation which wishes to consider itself ‘progressive’ in human matters, both mandatory and desired – not because of any sort of formulaic reasoning but rather because history suggests that when humans are left alone with no egalitarian instinct or mandate, tyrants soon assume control and ‘the People’ are relegated to positions of servitude.  Free people are not the analog of a swarm of worker bees or drones charged with service to the queen, nor are they the equivalent of an army of ants marching in a straight line carrying burdens from here to there.  Free people are, rather, each and all intended to live their lives as they see fit, to follow their instincts, to become playwrights or auto mechanics, molecular biologists or bakers, or anything else which tweaks their imaginations, their creativity (save for criminality, of course).

The heart and soul of social freedom is education, for without education there can be no reading, no writing, and little if any of the communications which cross-fertilize and nurture the various processes of creativity.  Without reading and writing, a complex society will soon find itself devoid of any deep-seated knowledge of science, mathematics, the arts, of philosophy or of history.  Education is critical and foundational to both comprehension and to the creative thinking which allows societies to nurture, to grow, and to mature into productive and benevolent cultures.  Across the last two millennia, Western civilization (so-called) emerged from imperial tyrannies only to wallow through a religion-enforced (and demanded) Dark Age.  After a few centuries the light of a Renaissance, an intellectual rebirth, beckoned, and soon thereafter the arts and sciences prospered, as did intellectualism.  And too, there came an age of global exploration where the earth was mapped, where new continents were discovered along with indigenous peoples who, during the time the Great Darkness had enveloped Europe, possessed knowledge and daring that some still find to this day difficult to believe, to accept. Continue reading

The Death of a Nation (a retropspective on the W. Bush era, Part 3: FISCAL)

Mitt Romney is sounding so much more like the worst side(s) of George W. Bush with every passing day, with every ‘new’ political forum/event, that it’s starting to get freaky out there! In the following overview (written in late 2004 and early 2005) of the fiscal policies brought into play during George W.Bush’s first term, there are — everywhere embedded — highly visible shades of Mitt Romney, 2012; the dilemma, the curse of conservatism, remains, apparently a long way from its own demise. Stated another way, The Death of a Nation remains on schedule. Conservatively speaking, of course.  (Part 1 & Part 2)

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Fiscal:

“A modern gentleman is necessarily the enemy of his country. Even in war he does not fight to defend it, but to prevent his power of preying on it from passing to a foreigner.”  ~ George Bernard Shaw

In his first address to Congress on the budget, on February 27, 2001, not yet six weeks into his first term, George W. Bush said: “My pan plays down an unprecedented amount of our national debt.”  Perhaps the obvious dyslexia in his statement should have warned the nation that he had no “pan” to ‘play down’ anything at all, nor did he have a ‘plan’ to ‘pay’ anything down; but he did have a plan to pay back those who had financed his campaign, those who paid big money to elect a Texas dyslexic who had never succeeded at anything he’d ever tried across the entire span of his life.  If ever there were questions as to why corporate power interests were willing to finance the election of what has been, in effect, a literary nitwit to the top seat of power, they’ve probably all been answered in the four years that have since passed.  Let it be noted that when George W. Bush took office, the fiscal figures he inherited from his predecessor Bill Clinton were among the rosiest the US had seen in half a century: the budget was actually running a surplus, and the huge national debt burden was being reduced.  It took Bush only a few months to turn things around completely. Continue reading

The Death of a Nation (a retrospective on the W. Bush era, Part 2)

Below is Part 2 in a series of essays which seem to have become, in retrospect, history-based observations of the consequences  actual and potential  of the first administration of POTUS George W. Bush, all penned early in his second term, i.e. by the end of April, 2005.  Read Part 1 here.

Listening to Mitt Romney speak to today’s world doesn’t exactly serve as a confidence-builder that anything has really changed (or ever will, for that matter) for the better.

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The Death of a Nation

“If ever we put any other value above liberty, and above principle, we shall lose both.” –Dwight D. Eisenhower (1960)

Imagine a modern society which is ignorant of history, of the arts, of literature, poetry, and drama.  Imagine a society that doesn’t care about its ignorance because it’s been taught, instead, that all there is of value in this life can be measured in dollars and cents and the goods which can be purchased therewith.  Imagine a society which believes wealth refers only to the accumulation of money and/or assets which carry a price tag.  Imagine a society which collectively is not well-informed enough to locate any particular nation on a globe, but which cheers when its leaders order invasions and occupations, a society which yawns at revelations that its leaders have ordered both torture and mass murder as a matter of policy.  Imagine a society once seen by its fellows around the world as a grand and glowing bastion of liberty and justice for everyone, no matter the accident of their birth, but now – suddenly – become feared, mistrusted, and even loathed; a society now emerged and perceived as untrustworthy and a danger to all of civilization, and in fact to Gaia, the very soul of Earth herself. Imagine a society – a nation –  so rife with political and corporate corruption that lies are now spoken as if truths, that what was once good is now bad, where right is wrong and wrong is right, where dreams are now become nightmares.

If imagination fails, simply stand forth and take a close look at the United States of America, circa 2005 A.D.: Land of the Free and Home of the Brave now become Land of the Tyrant and Home of the Scoundrel.

Much has happened on the American political scene in the last five years, and even to the unpracticed eye, none of it looks good.  Genuine truths, facts, lies, observations, trends, and tendencies have joined forces in a disturbing suggestion: that we may currently be witnessing the unveiling of events which one day will come together and define Constitutional America’s demise. Continue reading

The Watering Hole: September 28 – Me and my Segway

Jimi Heselden, the owner of Segway drove one off a cliff and into a river. He did not survive. Not wanting to make light of this tragedy, it still brings to mind this video clip of a former president on a similar device:

This is our open thread. Please feel free to offer your own comments on this or any other topic.

Keith Olbermann and Jeremy Scahill ‘thank’ Bush for the ‘success’ of the Iraq war

Raw Story:

‘They’ say that it really isn’t healthy to keep things bottled up inside. On Wed. evening’s MSNBC’s Countdown with Keith Olbermann, the liberal host and his guest, The Nation’s Jeremy Scahill went the healthy route and let it rip.

Discussion centered around President Obama’s address on the Iraq war and the ensuing criticism from neoconswho complained Obama should’ve thanked and praised President George W. Bush for the ‘success’ of the surge in Iraq.

“These people have a Ph.D in lying and a master’s degree in manipulating intelligence,” Scahill says of the neocons, “And it is, it’s really sobering to see this kind of brash historical revisionism happening in real time. The idea that these people want to post some kind of false flag of victory on the corpses of all who have died in Iraq because of their decisions. These people destabilized Iraq, they destabilized the Middle East, with their neo-con vision of redrawing maps, and they didn’t even succeed in their own stated mission. This is a special kind of pathological sickness that these individuals are plagued with.”

Scahill then begins to bust the ‘surge’ myth, “Pardon me for introducing a little bit of fact onto cable news over these 24 hours, but the reality is there was no success of the surge. The fact is that Bush’s policy in Iraq caused massive destabilization, led to a civil war that killed upwards of a million Iraqis; there were ethnic cleansing campaigns. When the surge troops went in there, Baghdad was a walled-off city, the Sunnis had been pushed out and sided with the United States, Muqtada al Sadr responded to the announced timetable for withdrawal that the neocons so opposed by saying he considered it a truce with America and pulled his forces off the street… So, the entire surge myth permeates to this day, and its actually one big lie.”

(Continue reading..)

This was awesome—a MAJOR dose of reality, and well delivered. It’s refreshing to hear somebody say it like it actually happened.. Facts are pesky things…

Good Riddance to Decade That Began With Theft of the Presidency

I am a big fan of John Nichols. This is an important post. I think it’s important to remember how this nightmare of a decade started..

Good Riddance to Decade That Began With Theft of the Presidency by John Nichols

The British press has taken to referring to the passing decade as “the Noughties” has made quite a big deal of trying to identify the political, economic and cultural trends of period from 2000 to 2009.

It is an amusing pastime that has some value, but only if we’re focused on identifying the root cause of what made the Noughties such a miserable decade.

If we are serious about the task, there is not much mystery.

The original sin of the good-riddance decade came in December of 2000, when the United States Supreme Court intervened to stop a complete recount of the votes in Florida and then declared George Bush to be the president.

This extreme judicial activism was not merely a devastating assault on American democracy. It set in motion the Bush presidency, and with it the pathologies that the Bush-Cheney administration imposed on the country in the form of unnecessary wars, failed economic policies, assaults on civil liberties and crudely divisive and hyper-partisan governance.

Bush, Dick Cheney and aides are surely to blame for much of what ailed America during the 2000s, and for what will ail America for decades to come.

But it was the U.S. Supreme Court’s unprecedented meddling in the presidential election process – an intervention that would have horrified the founders of a republic that was supposed to enjoy a separation of executive, legislative and judicial powers – made the Bush-Cheney interregnum possible.

Continue reading…

Onward, Christian Soldiers

There are those who fear our government is indoctrinating our school children to worship President Obama. They quickly point to the evils of indoctrination under Hitler, Stalin, and Kim Jong Il. Fear the Madrassa; love the Jesus Camp:

Perhaps this is the way all American school children should be taught regarding how to feel towards the President of the United States:

The Ethics of Indefinite Detention 101

Think Progress has a thread about a Washington Post article stating that President Obama’s considering using an Executive Order to allow indefinite detention.

Before we obsess too much about a Washington Post article, we should read the damn thing. Here’s the problem Obama inherited:

Three months into the Justice Department’s reviews, several officials involved said they have found themselves agreeing with conclusions reached years earlier by the Bush administration: As many as 90 detainees cannot be charged or released.

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“Torture Works” vs. “I Make Up Stories”

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Dick Cheney has been trying to tell us that torture works (okay, he still refuses to use the word “torture”, but in the interests of accuracy and clarity, I will substitute the word “torture” for any other euphemism they may utilize), that we gained valuable intelligence from its use, and that “it saved lives.” Did it, Dick? Did it really save lives? Or did it cost lives? American lives? Americans in uniform? Did your insistence on the use, and staunch defense, of a series of illegally-authorized interrogation techniques, which were based on methods known to elicit false confessions, actually end up getting one or more of our soldiers killed?

Thanks to the ACLU, we now know that Dick Cheney was lying through his gritting teeth when he said we received valuable intelligence through the use of torture, particularly in the case of Khalid Sheikh Muhammad (also, and more conveniently, known as “KSM”.) He claimed that intel “saved lives.” Given Dick’s well-documented history of spreading falsehoods, I have every reason in the world to believe that not only was this statement a lie, it was actually the opposite of the truth. I have reason to believe that people died because of the information we gained through torture. And the reason is a very simple one. KSM himself said, in his statement at his “Combatant Status Review Tribunal Hearing” (Pg 15):

I ah cannot remember now…I be under questioning so-many statement which been some them l make up stories just location UBL. Continue reading

John Yoo ordered to testify on torture

John Yoo, the former Bush administration lawyer connected to the torture program put in place by the Bush Administration, has been ordered to testify in court about accusations that his work led to the torture of a detainee. More at ThinkProgress and Raw Story.

From Raw Story:

Former Bush administration attorney John Yoo was ordered on Friday by a federal judge in San Francisco to testify in an appeal brought by Jose Padilla, an American citizen who was held for more than three years and allegedly tortured while in U.S. military custody.

Yoo was one of several administration lawyers who authored legal memos which outlined a legal range for torture, a war crime under the Geneva Convention relative to the prisoners of war.

“Judge [Jeffrey S.] White denied most elements of Mr. Yoo’s motion and quoted a passage from the Federalist Papers that in times of war, nations, to be more safe, ‘at length become willing to run the risk of being less free,’” noted The New York Times.

Yoo, while at the Office of Legal Council in 2002, authored a majority of the department’s opinions on torture along with Jay Bybee, who now serves as a judge on the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, and Steven Bradbury, the former OLC chief who now practices law in Washington, D.C…

Read more on this story…

Bush: The Gift that Keeps on Giving…

if you’re KBR, that is:

In July 2008, the Army said a new dining facility was badly needed at the Camp Delta forward operating base because the existing one was too small, had a saggy ceiling, poor lighting and an unsanitary wooden floor.

KBR was awarded a contract in September. Work began in late October as American and Iraqi officials were negotiating the agreement setting the dates for the U.S. troop withdrawal

But during an April visit to Camp Delta, the commission learned that the existing mess hall had just been renovated. The $3.36 million job was done by KBR and completed in June 2008.

This $30 million unneeded dining facility is to be completed on Christmas Day, 2009.

“With American forces scheduled to be out of Iraq by the end of 2011, the U.S. will use the new facility for two years at most.” In other words, in the waning months of the Bush Administration, when the American economy was “cratering,” the Bush Administration gives a $30 million contract to KBR to build an unneeded and unnecessary dining facility.

How many other multi-million dollar projects Bush gave away in his waning days as President has yet to be seen…

Torture Used to Link Saddam With 9/11

by Marjorie Cohn (Posted with permission)

When I testified last year before the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties about Bush interrogation policies, Congressman Trent Franks (R-Arizona) stated that former CIA Director Michael Hayden had confirmed that the Bush administration only waterboarded Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Abu Zubaydah, and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashirit for one minute each. I told Franks that I didn’t believe that. Sure enough, one of the newly released torture memos reveals that Mohammed was waterboarded 183 times and Zubaydah was waterboarded 83 times. One of Stephen Bradbury’s 2005 memos asserted that “enhanced techniques” on Zubaydah yielded the identification of Mohammed and an alleged radioactive bomb plot by Jose Padilla. But FBI supervisory special agent Ali Soufan, who interrogated Zubaydah from March to June 2002, wrote in The New York Times that Zubaydah produced that information under traditional interrogation methods, before the harsh techniques were ever used.

Why, then, the relentless waterboarding of these two men? It turns out that high Bush officials put heavy pressure on Pentagon interrogators to get Mohammed and Zubaydah to reveal a link between Saddam Hussein and the 9/11 hijackers, in order to justify Bush’s illegal and unnecessary invasion of Iraq in 2003. That link was never established.

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Turley: Torture prosecution is not ‘retribution’

George Washington University law school professor Jonathan Turley was a guest last evening on The Rachel Maddow Show, and discussed the White House release of the Bush-era secret torture memos, and President Obama’s ruling out the prosecution of CIA officials for the use of those tactics.


Six years of war in Iraq

Today is the anniversary of the United States’ attack on Iraq — a country which did not attack us on September 11, 2001, or any other time, and did not possess the means to do so.

Here are a few of the costs of George W. Bush’s deadly folly:

US military deaths:  4259

US military suicides (in Iraq):  177

US military wounded:  31,102

Iraqi deaths:  estimated to be 946,000 to 1.12 million

Lies told by the Bush administration to get us into Iraq:  935 (and counting)

Financial cost of Iraq war (US):  Approximately $656.1 billion (and counting)

Finally, as if all this is not enough, we have lost basic Constitutional protections — in the name of keeping us “safe.” Keith Olbermann says it well in this Special Comment regarding habeas corpus:

UPDATE: Think Progress has a timeline of the Iraq War here.

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Don’t miss these articles…

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A number of important articles have been written since the secret legal memos from the Bush Administration were recently released. We have been told there are more memos soon to released that may prove even more disturbing that these, but for now, here are three articles that came out today that need to be read and discussed.

First, by Robert Parry (Consortium News): How Close the Bush Bullet

Second, from Naomi Wolf (Common Dreams): Yoo and The Subversion of Liberty Narrowly Averted

If you haven’t read Naomi Wolf’s book “The End of America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot“, then go out and find yourself a copy. It is a warning for all our citizens—a clarion call. EVERY American should read it and know what to watch for in order to preserve what we as a nation throughout history have fought and died for. She actually created a film based on her book here.

And third, from Marjorie Cohn: Memos Provide Blueprint For Police State

How close did we come to losing our country as we know it? Are we still in danger from what was changed with the knowledge or consent of “We The People”? What is being done now to prevent this from happening again? Will President Obama take the steps necessary to give back the powers grabbed by President Bush and restore this enormous breach of public trust and loss of rights and freedoms under our Constitution?

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John Dean: Bush terror memos close to ‘unconstitutional dictator’

Raw Video:

Lawyers told President Bush that he could detain anyone in the country without a warrant or order a military raid on them if they were terrorists. Author John Dean talked to MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann about how it was determined who was a terrorist.


Glenn Greenwald, himself a Constitutional lawyer, writes extensively on these newly-released ‘torture memos’ today.

One of the central facts that we, collectively, have not yet come to terms with is how extremist and radical were the people running the country for the last eight years.  That condition, by itself, made it virtually inevitable that the resulting damage would be severe and fundamental, even irreversible in some sense.  It’s just not possible to have a rotting, bloated, deeply corrupt and completely insular political ruling class — operating behind impenetrable walls of secrecy — and avoid the devastation that is now becoming so manifest.  It’s just a matter of basic cause and effect.

Greenwald goes on later to say this:

The most vital point is that all of the documents released yesterday by the Obama DOJ comprise nothing less than a regime of secret laws under which we were governed.  Nothing was redacted when those documents yesterday were released because they don’t contain any national security secrets.  They’re nothing more than legal decrees, written by lawyers.  They’re just laws that were implemented with no acts of Congress, unilaterally by the Executive branch.  Yet even the very laws that governed us were kept secret for eight years.

This is factually true, with no hyperbole:  Over the last eight years, we had a system in place where we pretended that our “laws” were the things enacted out in the open by our Congress and that were set forth by the Constitution.  The reality, though, was that our Government secretly vested itself with the power to ignore those public laws, to declare them invalid, and instead, create a whole regimen of secret laws that vested tyrannical, monarchical power in the President.  Nobody knew what those secret laws were because even Congress, despite a few lame and meek requests, was denied access to them.  What kind of country lives under secret laws?

Don’t miss it.

UPDATE: Another good article on this is Extraordinary Measures by Michael Isikoff found at Truthout.

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Obama halts delisting wolves from ESA

Earthjustice

White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel Tuesday sent a memo to the heads of all executive departments and agencies, ordering a stop to all pending regulations until a legal and

Grey wolves

Grey wolves

policy review can be conducted by the Obama administration.A rule that would eliminate Endangered Species Act protections for wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains except for those in Wyoming was scheduled to be published on January 27. Now it will fall under review with the new administration.

Among others, the Bush administration recently finalized rules that significantly weaken the Endangered Species Act, allow for mining deposits to be dumped within 100 feet of flowing streams and exempts large-scale factory farms from notifying government officials when they release unsafe levels of toxic emissions into the community. Earthjustice, a public interest law firm, filed suit against all of these rules.

President Obama has stopped the destructive temper tantrum thrown by George W. Bush in his remaining days as president, but as we see above, many horrifically damaging rules were finalized before Bush left office.

Go here to read the statement released by Earthjustice regarding their lawsuit.

HT:  Witch1

Whistleblower: Bush’s NSA targeted reporters

Raw Story

Former analyst at the National Security Agency, Russell Tice, exclusively reveals to Countdown’s Keith Olbermann that American journalists where specifically targeted by the Bush administration for surveillance. Tice feared revealing this information while George Bush occupied the Oval office.

Do you think journalists and news organizations KNEW they were being targeted by the illegal wiretapping 24/7, 365 days a year? Did that have an effect on their reporting?
Was the purpose to intimidate? To control? To manage the message? (“1984“..)

What other groups? Members of Congress? The Senate? The Department of Justice? Where the fuck did they stop?

Was illegal wiretapping on ALL Americans just unethical? Or was it ILLEGAL?? This should scare the holy shit out of every single American. These are not the practices of the America I know and love. This secret practice has no place in a democracy—by the people, for the people. Is it still ongoing? Or will it stop with President Obama? Will he take measures to make sure it cannot happen again? Does that mean those breaking the laws by allowing this practice will be held to account?

Again, I am SO happy and grateful Bush/Cheney are finally GONE!! Now, we must be diligent, and make sure this practice ends. This isn’t about ‘protecting’ the American people, it never has been. This was ONLY about controlling the American people. The word ‘protecting’ was certainly thrown around a lot, but that was only used to instill fear, to make people think about being afraid and feel insecure, and then look to the government to ‘keep them safe’. As I read in a book this last weekend – this line: “all encompassing terror is an absolute necessity in order to keep a dictatorship in power”. That line seriously resonated after the last eight years.. It may not have technically been a ‘dictatorship’, but it sure felt like it was shaping up to be one.

Thank God it is FINALLY over.

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Keith will be interviewing Russell Tice in a ‘part 2′ follow-up segment tomorrow night.