"The action I am taking is no more than a radical measure to hasten the explosion of truth and justice. I have but one passion: to enlighten those who have been kept in the dark, in the name of humanity which has suffered so much and is entitled to happiness. My fiery protest is simply the cry of my very soul. Let them dare, then, to bring me before a court of law and let the enquiry take place in broad daylight!" - Emile Zola, J'accuse! (1898) -

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

George Bush, The Most Unpopular President Since The US Was Founded



A Geeky Side of Bush's Legacy that Must Be Overcome


Part of the project of climbing out of the deep, deep pit George W. Bush tossed our nation into has a geeky quality. We need to learn to stop using computers to lie to ourselves.

You don't need me to point out the Bush years were poisoned by illusions. We loan-sharked ourselves, pretended New Orleans was dry, and invaded the wrong country. 

But take a moment to notice how we all succumbed to the process of wasting the precious time we have on this Earth in order to enter stultifying lies into computers in order to make Bush's illusions seem real. 

During the Bush years a great many Americans -- perhaps most -- and in every walk of life spent an astounding amount of time entering phony data into information systems in an attempt to enforce some illusion or another declared from above. Every era has its illusions, of course, but the Bush years brought an unprecedented level of tedium to the process of illusion coaching.

One thing that was weird about the Bush era was the ritualistic "make work" quality of the tedium everyone had to endure. For example, Chief Financial Officers reshaped companies to generate mountains of hard disks filled with Sarbanes-Oxley documentation, while at the same time buying up preposterous mortgage-backed securities, which resided within a monstrous underworld of hard disks containing undisclosed, esoteric contracts. In the old days, executives with sticky fingers would have just committed breezy malfeasance.

Similarly, military and political figures laid out an intensely detailed brief for the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. (Fooled me, by the way... ) In the old days, someone would have just fabricated a provocation, as happened at the start of our presence in Viet Nam. I am not saying one wrong way of getting into a war is worse than another. But how did Bush get us all to buy in to his obsession with a phony-work ethic? Why all the tedium?

One possibility is that it's the closest approximation to a work ethic that W could imagine, given his privileged background. Another, more optimistic, theory is that at least putting effort into pretending to pay attention is a positive evolutionary step. Under that theory, faking evidence IS a little better than faking a provocation. 

Americans were coached to fill out forms to get mortgages that would blow up in their faces a few years later. In the late Clinton years, by contrast, Americans were able to inflate the dot com bubble with the light touch of online day trading. The dot com bubble might have been ridiculous, but it wasn't tedious and time consuming to inflate. During the Bush years, we had to pretend to be working very hard to inflate our bubble.

The pattern repeated everywhere, at every level. Schoolteachers during the Bush years were forced to teach to the test to create the illusory documentation of "no child left behind." All the teachers I know feel they are doing a less authentic job, creating an illusion of education. Similarly, NASA scientists had little choice for a while but to create doomed research proposals as if they were part of an illusory mission to Mars. Doctors have been spending a preposterous portion of their time on paperwork wars with insurance companies. These companies attempt to get the doctors to enter data into the system that enforce the illusion that each patient only needs a predetermined level of care.

Our hard work to create illusions in the Bush years didn't amount to much. What a waste of time! In each case above, the reality would have been preferable to the illusion.

The Bush White House put far more effort into responding to the illusion generated by the tedious fake documentation (invading Iraq), than to a horrific, genuine provocation (9/11.) We chose the worse of two evils, when the lesser happened to be the truth. 9/11 was awful. (I was there, by the WTC.) But an attack from Iraq with weapons of mass destruction might have been worse. But it was never in the cards, as it happens.

The pattern repeats in each case: Making informed investments makes more money than buying toxic debt. Getting people into plausible mortgages generates more profits, taxes, and a wealthier populace than getting them into traps. Treating a patient when needed costs less than delaying treatment until there's an emergency. 

Bush, and by extension, the nation he governed, did not live in denial, but in anti-denial. He preferred the worse case, because that means there would be more forms to make everyone fill out.

The Bush years have been like a ritual performed by a tribe that believes that whatever is the most tedious must be the most real.







Dean to Depart DNC a Hero

Four years and two very successful campaign cycles later, Dean's achievements as chairman are unquestioned, and the benefits of his innovative 50-state strategy are self-evident. We learned today that Dean is departing the DNC, but he'll leave as something of a hero. Sam Stein reports:


Stein added that Dean's vision is "poised to become party orthodoxy," and Dean may even "extract promises from all potential replacement candidates to preserve the 50-state-strategy." Even his would-be successors are smart, this won't take too much arm-twisting.

Letter: Cheney/Bush 'disease' must be treated now
The Saratogian, NY - 6 hours ago
If we wish this nation to heal itself we must first treat the disease that has rotted our Constitutional freedoms and protections: the Cheney/Bush 


Dozens of protesters have gathered outside the Department of Justice to urge indictment and trail of the US President and Vice President. 

The activists and legal observers participating in the demonstrations wanted to deliver a letter to Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey, saying outgoing President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney should be taken accountable for treason, murder, bribery and other high crimes. 

"This is not about getting them out of office, that's impeachment. This is about holding them accountable," said David Swanson, the founder of After Downing Street (ADS). 

On the way to the department, the crowd, however, was stopped by a low-level press secretary who pledged he would hand the letter over to the attorney general, Press TV correspondent Jahan Hafez reported. 

"We really need to have a medium with him (Michael Mukasey) and we need him to agree to look into the crimes of the Bush administration which are many," stressed Linda Letendre of the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance (NCNR). 

As Justice Department officials passed the protesters, activists read off the names of those lost in the war. 

The protesters then lay on the ground to symbolize those who killed in the so-called war on terror. 

"If in fact your elected officials are not held the same standard that the regular citizens are, then you don't have the standard, you don't have the rule of law," one of the activists said. 

"That's extremely dangerous for everybody," she warned. 

"We are directly responsible for those and I would call them murders …Then you have another four million Iraqis who have been displaced from their homes and businesses and their children. There is cholera, there is no water, there is no electricity," another protester lamented, referring to the dire consequences the Iraqi nation has been suffering after the US-led invasion of the country in 2003.

"There is constant fear and it's hard to sit still, knowing that we have done this and that we are allowing it to continue," she added. 

The anti-war community says that choosing a new commander-in-chief is not enough and it does not justify thousands of people who have died because of the policies of the Bush administration. 

They say the real change comes about when George W. Bush and Dick Cheney are indicated over war crimes and crimes against humanity. 


Obama and the War on Brains

Barack Obama’s election is a milestone in more than his pigmentation. The second most remarkable thing about his election is that American voters have just picked a president who is an open, out-of-the-closet, practicing intellectual.


Maybe, just maybe, the result will be a step away from the anti-intellectualism that has long been a strain in American life. Smart and educated leadership is no panacea, but we’ve seen recently that the converse — a White House that scorns expertise and shrugs at nuance — doesn’t get very far either.


We can’t solve our educational challenges when, according to polls, Americans are approximately as likely to believe in flying saucers as in evolution, and when one-fifth of Americans believe that the sun orbits the Earth.


Almost half of young Americans said in a 2006 poll that it was not necessary to know the locations of countries where important news was made. That must be a relief to Sarah Palin, who, according to Fox News, didn’t realize that Africa was a continent rather than a country.


Perhaps John Kennedy was the last president who was unapologetic about his intellect and about luring the best minds to his cabinet. More recently, we’ve had some smart and well-educated presidents who scrambled to hide it. Richard Nixon was a self-loathing intellectual, and Bill Clinton camouflaged a fulgent brain behind folksy Arkansas aphorisms about hogs.


Mr. Obama, unlike most politicians near a microphone, exults in complexity. He doesn’t condescend or oversimplify nearly as much as politicians often do, and he speaks in paragraphs rather than sound bites. Global Language Monitor, which follows linguistic issues, reports that in the final debate, Mr. Obama spoke at a ninth-grade reading level, while John McCain spoke at a seventh-grade level.


James Garfield could simultaneously write Greek with one hand and Latin with the other, Thomas Jefferson was a dazzling scholar and inventor, and John Adams typically carried a book of poetry. Yet all were outclassed by George Washington, who was among the least intellectual of our early presidents.


Yet as Mr. Obama goes to Washington, I’m hopeful that his fertile mind will set a new tone for our country. Maybe someday soon our leaders no longer will have to shuffle in shame when they’re caught with brains in their heads…..


Bush Disapproval Ratings Reach All Time High 
By Steve Benen, Washington Monthly
Bush is now more unpopular than Nixon was when he resigned from office during Watergate. By a lot. 
Read more