Adam Rice

My life and the world around me

Category: current events (page 4 of 18)

Is that all there is?

Peggy Lee

So the Democrats have taken both the House and Senate. Admittedly, they had a little help from the White House, which managed to turn off many voters with a litany of crimes and errors too long and obvious to mention. But what surprised me is that the Republican majority—especially in the Senate—ended not with a bang but a whimper. The GOP could have put up a fight over the results in Montana and Virginia. In fact, I expected them to, and was surprised that they didn’t. I expected dirty tricks being masterminded by Karl Rove, lawsuits, etc. Nothing. Both Burns and Allen rolled over pretty meekly.

There is always a difference between the way a thing exists in the real world and your mental model of it. In my mental model of today’s GOP, the party is ruthless and effective (among other things). I suspect that many progressives have held a roughly similar model, and the Republicans have done plenty to create it. So the quick concessions are jarring, surprising. It makes me wonder if Democrats have been scaring themselves into paralysis with tales of the big scary boogeyman when the boogeyman really isn’t that big or scary.

It’s OK Pluto…

…you’ll always be a planet to me.

We know you’re going to love this

Problem: The U.S. government is running rapidly increasing deficits.

Problem: The FBI/CIA/NSA are collecting enormous amounts of information about U.S. citizens (and non-citizens) that they make relatively little use of.

Problem: In an increasingly diverse media market, advertisers face growing difficulty effectively targeting and reaching their audiences.

Solution: Government spook databases will be licensed to marketing firms for the purpose of developing better advertising approaches. The Department of Homeland Security will be renamed the Department of Homeland Security & Marketing Opportunities. In the course of developing their own demographic models, marketers will discover new patterns and connections, which they will share with DHS&MO (as required under a licensing agreement), resulting both in better spying and better advertising. Database access fees will help reduce the deficit and fund more effective data-collection techniques at the DHS&MO.

Other benefits: Citizens considered to be potential security threats will be enrolled in special marketing programs that will allow them to spend their way into good standing. Conversely, citizens who do not consume enough will receive special government scrutiny to determine whether they may be security threats.

Que onda guerrero

Problem: Bush wants permanent war, keeping citizens scared and Halliburton happy.

Problem: Military recruitment is down, because people don’t like being blown up, and relatively few Americans are so desperate for a job that they’ll risk it.

Problem: Bush wants to create a “guest worker” program, and find a way to permit illegal immigrants to stay in the country without seeming soft on them, perhaps by imposing a fine.

Solution: Create a “guest soldier” program. Our friends from south of the border who want a chance to live in the USA can take their chances getting a green card, or can volunteer immediately for the U.S. military. Illegal immigrants who are rounded up will be given the option of immediate deportation or enlistment. Those who survive a two-year hitch can go back to picking vegetables and ensuring Americans have low food prices (so that we can stay fat and sit on the couch, pretending to blow shit up on our Playstations) without being hassled by the INS.

Yes, I’m joking, but I’m a little surprised some wingnut hasn’t advocated this in earnest yet.

Exasperation

Unlike some people, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with cynicism–the only problem with it is that it’s so hard to keep up.

Permanent majority

I’ve heard three Republicans refer to their party has being a “permanent majority” now: before the election, Tom Delay; after, Karl Rove and a party strategist whose name I didn’t catch.

On the one hand, I’m tempted to write this off as self-destructive hubris. On the other, I look at the party’s willingness to do what it takes to maximize that majority–mid-term re-redistricting, the rumored end of the Senate’s supermajority rule for cloture, the unusual step of going after the other party’s leader, not to mention tricks like requiring lobbyists to only hire Republicans, and commandeering DHS staff for partisan purposes–and I think that writing it off might be a little too easy.

Message to the world

All of you who are citizens of other countries, it’s officially OK to start hating Americans now.

Four years ago, perhaps you were feeling charitable and realized that we didn’t exactly elect Bush. He lost the popular vote, and only won the electoral vote through a process that was dubious at best. He went on to govern as if he had a clear mandate, and with a friendly Congress, has run the country with a free hand, not vetoing any legislation, and getting away with winners like the USA PATRIOT act and the Iraq war. Senate Democrats have managed to stonewall a handful of judicial appointees, which Republicans laughably refer to as “gridlock.” Corruption and contempt for reality in the executive has become the order of the day, and the friendly Congress has not been inclined to make much of a fuss over it.

Things are different this time. Bush clearly won the popular vote, and Kerry has conceded the race. Not only that, but the GOP’s hold on the Senate has strengthened, with the election of a candidate in Oklahoma who has called for the execution of abortionists (even though he himself is one) and another in Kentucky who practically needs a drool bucket. Eleven proposed state amendments to ban gay marriage (and in some cases, any hint of official recognition for gay relationships) all passed easily.

In short, Americans have clearly demonstrated what kind of country they want. It’s not a likable one. While I’ve always identified strongly as an American–my citizenship and my country mean a lot to me–I have to ask myself whether it is worth it to fight for the country I believe in, or cut my losses and concede that it simply doesn’t exist. Today I feel like a stranger in my own country.

More on Us vs Them

I ran across a few more nuggets on this subject after my previous post on the subject:

Decoy

Bush made another campaign speech in which he came up with yet another post-hoc rationale for the war:

If Zarqawi and his associates
were not busy fighting Iraqi and American forces in Iraq, what does Senator
Kerry think they would be doing? Peaceful, small business owners?
(Laughter.) Running a benevolent society? (Laughter.)

Let’s get this straight: Bush is suggesting here that we’re using Iraq as a decoy, to fight terrorists there so we don’t have to fight them on U.S. soil. So what are we supposed to say to the people we were supposedly liberating from a tyrannical dictator? “Sorry about all these explosions, but better you all than us?”

Say “quack,” Iraq.

I actually think Bush is partly right here: Iraq is clearly a magnet for terrorists now, and it is quite possible that it has attracted some terrorists who might otherwise be plotting attacks against the USA, ironically having created after the fact another one of the justifications he used for the war (the supposed link between Iraq and al Qaeda). Of course, it’s also a breeding-ground for new terrorists, and we learn today, a handy munitions depot for terrorists, who have apparently scooped up extremely dangerous explosives, previously under UN seal, that our troops (perhaps directed by Rumsfeld to attend a rose-petal-throwing ceremony) were not guarding.

In any case, to the extent that the war on terror can be clearly won, it will ultimately be won by getting as much of the world on the same side as possible–and being on that side with them. Extremists will always exist in isolated pockets, but their ability to rally large groups against Americans would be limited. Invading a country and then using it as a terrorist decoy is not an effective way to get the world on your side.

Us vs them

The NY Times recently ran a long, interesting article on the Bush presidency–if you haven’t read it already, I encourage you to print it and read it at your leisure. It’s been widely cited in other blogs, especially for the stunning, arrogant “reality-based community” comment.

There’s something else that stood out for me in the article, something that relates to something I’ve been wondering about for a long time.

Bush has very strong support among a lot of people who identify themselves as traditional, conservative Republicans–but Bush is not traditional or conservative, his rhetoric notwithstanding. He has presided over a huge expansion of the government, adding employees as quickly as possible (perhaps to offset the disastrous private-sector job losses the economy has seen) and expanding non-defense discretionary spending faster than any of the last five presidents, dramatically extending government intrusiveness in a way that should–but doesn’t–set off alarm bells for 2nd-Amendment absolutists (though the 2nd Amendment itself has remained sacrosanct), screwing over the military even as he calls upon it for his misguided adventure, and of course passing lopsided tax cuts that benefit the very wealthy.

So why do salt-of-the-earth regular folks like him so much? Well, he certainly has that homespun image down. The way he talks about his record certainly makes him seem like a better president than he is. He’s a hardass on social-conservative issues. So those might all be enough, but perhaps there’s something else:

…Mark McKinnon, a longtime senior media adviser to Bush, who now runs his own consulting firm and helps the president. He started by challenging me. “You think he’s an idiot, don’t you?” I said, no, I didn’t. “No, you do, all of you do, up and down the West Coast, the East Coast, a few blocks in southern Manhattan called Wall Street. Let me clue you in. We don’t care. You see, you’re outnumbered 2 to 1 by folks in the big, wide middle of America, busy working people who don’t read The New York Times or Washington Post or The L.A. Times. And you know what they like? They like the way he walks and the way he points, the way he exudes confidence. They have faith in him. And when you attack him for his malaprops, his jumbled syntax, it’s good for us. Because you know what those folks don’t like? They don’t like you!”

What I’ve been wondering is whether all those dirt farmers in flyover country know that the effete liberals on the coasts hate G.W, and so they embrace him–“the enemy of my enemy is my friend”. If so, G.W. isn’t the catalyst for our current polarization, he’s the mirror of it. This quote suggests that maybe it’s so. But the enemy of your enemy may just be a different kind of enemy.

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