Friday, December 30, 2005

A Paradox or Two to End the Year

I'll end the year here with two questions that have weighed heavily on my mind these final weeks of 2005. For those of you who come here for art talk, please pardon these political posers...sometimes I can't help myself.

Paradox One:
On one hand we're asked to believe that the post-spying--warrant-getting process needed to comply with FISA is so burdensome that the
most bloated Federal Government in recent memory simply can't handle the extra work. On the other hand, George W. Bush has spent more time vacationing while in office than just about any of his predecessors. Now maybe it's just my Midwestern work ethic, but it seems to me that the paperwork that ensures judicial oversight (which ensures the civil liberties of American citizens are given as much due as possible) might get done if the President spent one or two fewer days clearing brush each year. I mean, I'm assuming they could still do the paperwork without him there, but just in case his signature is needed or something, couldn't he cut the biking time just a bit? Is earning his entry in the Guinness Book of Records for most days off for any POTUS really as important to him as reassuring the American people that he's not being absolutely corrupted by all that power?

Paradox Two:
Everytime the President is challenged, whether on the issue of torture, secret prisons, secret spying, suspect adherence to signed treaties and conventions, suspect designations of people as "enemy combattants", etc. ---all things that the populace would clearly be right to be alarmed about were they to become standard operating procedure---we're told it's only that way because "WE'RE AT WAR WITH TERRORISTS!" Don't worry, it's not a reflection of our "real" principles. We wouldn't treat normal enemies this way or our citizens this way during peace time. These are extreme circumstances that require extreme measures. But when we ask why Bush is the first President in history to fight for ever greater tax cuts DURING a war and a record Federal deficit (one that only entitlement programs are being slashed to try and curb) or why a draft isn't instituted, we're told, "Well, this is a low-grade war...one that will likely go on for many many years, and we have to live our lives as normally as possible throughout." So, what I want to know is why the President gets to cherry pick which principles are important to give up for the war, and which ones (like shared national sacrifices) are not? I know he has supernatural executive powers that conveniently lift him above the law when it's too much bother to follow the law, but does he also have supernatural powers that show him who's supposed to sacrifice and who's supposed to get obscenely wealthier through all this?

21 Comments:

Anonymous juryduty said...

Don't get me started.

Really, I mean it... don't get me started ...

12/31/2005 12:44:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

4 straight years of GDP going up while median income drops yet again. Know what that means? Folks at the top are making more money than ever before while everyone else is having to scrape by on less. Ain't nothing trickling down in this trickle down economy. I'm honestly in disbelief that this guy is our president. I can see him getting elected for the first term- some people were pissed about that hummer Clinton got and took it out on Gore. But to elect him to a second term- WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE?! By the way, if there was a draft this war would have never been started. Without a draft people are able to remain oblivious to the costs of this war. The folks who support this war are fine with someone else's children being sent to die but when it comes to their own children or grandchildren dying for Bush/Cheney lies.....I'm in disbelief, utter disbelief. And if they're monitoring this blog I just want to say, "I keeeed, I keeeed."

12/31/2005 03:03:00 AM  
Blogger Art Soldier said...

Power grabs by Presidents during times of trouble are nothing new. Just think about FDR, one of my all-time favorite Presidents. His assumption of power during the Depression was really a dangerous afront to democracy, and yet it all worked out beautifully because, turns out, he was a brilliant man. Nevertheless, that much power under one person's control is still scary, that's why we don't have kings anymore (because you never know when King FDR is going to have a dumbass son named King W).

During times of distress (especially war) people are scared shitless and are willing to give the President the benefit of the doubt in order to protect them. In this case, the threat of terrorism seems especially abstract and is making people stupid. After every holiday I keep hearing more and more stories from friends (including myself) who have returned to their families only to find friends and relatives who are now passionate devotees to the Bush throne. Normally rational people (who in many cases didn't formerly follow politics at all) are falling under the spell of the propaganda of this administration and can now be heard touting Bush's accomplishments as if he were saving the world from evil. They have a new found hatred for 'liberals' - a term that many of them weren't even familiar with 5 years ago.

I think the only solution is for the war to end and a new administration to take this one's place. The damage will have been done, but only then will the situation start to improve. Recent inroads have been made in an effort to curb the President's power and his false assumption that he has an unqualified mandate. I will be watching with great interest to see if congressional hearings into his illegal wiretapping activities actually take place. It seems obvious that there are grounds to at least consider the impeachment process. The only problem is, everyone say it with me now, "President Dick Cheney???!!!". Ugh.

12/31/2005 08:40:00 AM  
Blogger Bill Gusky said...

Backlash is coming, folks.

Wait for it...

Wait for it...

12/31/2005 08:40:00 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

Ahhh, I have loved being out of the country and away from news the past 2 weeks. I'll go with Bill on this one, "Backlash is coming, folks." The sad part of this passage we are caught in, is how divided the country is, however most of the world is not.
At this point I'll go with jury duty. I have a few more hours before returning home so, 'Don't get me started."
Much peace to you all this year!

12/31/2005 08:56:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Backlash is coming, folks

I want some guarantees. The way he's coming out swinging against the leakers suggests he plans to bulldoze his way through his critics on this one. What he fails to understand is that a good half the country doesn't trust him and doesn't want him to have such power. And the other half would understand this immediately if they consider the same power remaining in the President's hand right through Hillary's inauguration.

12/31/2005 09:41:00 AM  
Anonymous Henry said...

JFK stated it was a "paradoxical truth" that cutting taxes leads to increased revenues. Carter and Clinton used the same executive powers your post complains about, on a regular basis during their terms. The president takes his office with him. He has a video conferencing center in Crawford. Reagan pretended he was a Christian conservative, Clinton pretended he was ... many things, and Bush pretends he's leisurely.

And businesspeople don't take days off. They merely conduct business outside the office. You strike a deal playing golf. You network at a party. You talk shop in the skybox at the game. I'm an executive in a small company. For the last seven years, I've taken a laptop and cellphone with me on every "vacation."

The record of terrorism during the 1990s (1993 WTC, 1996 Khobar, 1998 Embassy, 2000 Cole) suggests the current policy is not only warranted, but successful. The media loves to say "more people are in prison despite recent drops in crime," but of course crime has dropped because more people are in prison.

As to the claim about median income, the proper response is, "cite?" Four-person median income from 1998 through 2002 was $56,061 $59,981 $62,228 $63,278 and $62,732 [1]. 2006 is estimated at $65,093 [2]. There are some drops in there, but the long term is nothing to cry about.

The "backlash" is against the Democrats, not the Republicans. The younger generation is increasingly "conservative," by which I mean hawkish small-government libertarians, not isolationist fundamentalists.

Kyoto, super-environmentalism, anti-capitalism, Euro-superiorism, multiculturalism, weak-America-ism, UN-centrism, and all the other tightly-held tenets of the "religion of smart people" are falling like bricks. You'll see an athiest Republican on the streets before you see a nationalist Democrat.

In a country where there's more sex on television and the streets than there is in the bedroom, and more "questioning" of American policy here than overseas, the complaint that America is become fundamentalist is unserious. In an America where the economy today is not only extremely strong, but strengthening as the rest of the world is weakening, the claim that we're having economic problems is uninformed.

The Civil War led to Republican dominance. The Great Depression led to Democrat dominance. The bad economy of the 1970s and the terrorism of the 1990s led to Republican dominance. Depending whether we start counting from 1980 (Reagan), 1995 (Gingrich) or 2001 (Bin Laden), we've still got some decades to go in the conservative cycle yet.

12/31/2005 11:51:00 AM  
Blogger Bill Gusky said...

Henry, the nation speaks better than I ever could through polls that say that better than half of all Americans distrust the president, think the Iraq invasion was a mistake, and think the Bush administration trumped up evidence of WMD in Iraq. There's your backlash.

Americans have spoken through polls stating that they believe that Bush's administration could have prevented 9/11 and failed, in spite of Bush's many working vacations -- wait, perhaps his 'working vacation' habit is what made him a complete failure as a businessman. There's your backlash.

Prominent Republicans under indictment, and the reaction of Americans against them, speaks more eloquently than any blogpost. There's your backlash.

The embarassing failure of Social Security reform and the uproar over the ridiculous Harriet Myers Supreme Court nomination testify to a nation that's had it with a president who's not only out of touch with the concerns of Americans, but out of touch with reality. There's your backlash.

The funny part is, the Democrats you despise aren't likely to come up with any solutions, in my opinion. I see change coming from the Republican party itself, as the entire party steers away, in some cases at breakneck speed, from the entire Bush administration fiasco.

Mr. W, sorry for exchanging one rant for another, but I couldn't let this one slip.

12/31/2005 12:13:00 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

Don't look now, but did Gusky get a facelift?

12/31/2005 01:55:00 PM  
Anonymous George said...

Oh let's see, who's vote can we BUY? We'll just tell them "cutting taxes leads to increased revenues" and grease them up good, yeh OUR REVENUE snicker.
This is the same old tired argument that that LAFFER dope used in the Reagan era. Of course it was followed by the biggest national debt in history (until now, that is)

BRIBE and SPEND is the new Republican motto.

Business people don't take days off, well that might be true. What kind of 'business people' was GWB? Crappy, crappy ran Harkin Pete into the ground, what a wildcatter he was.

The record of terrorism during the 1990s (1993 WTC, 1996 Khobar, 1998 Embassy, 2000 Cole) suggests the current policy is not only warranted, but successful.
I can't see how anyone would conclude anything meaningful from the statement above. Terrorism was running it's own course, but of course when it becomes spectacular peak feat like 911 it is unlikely it could get much worse so it HAS to look like it's getting better.

Statistics, statistics, statistics, dig them up when you need to lie
Year . . . Income. . . CPI
1998 . . 56061 . . n/a
1999 . . 57294 . . 1.022
2000 . . 59242 . . 1.034
2001 . . 60901 . . 1.028
2002 . . 61875 . . 1.016
2003 . . 63298 . . 1.023
2004 . . 63235 . . 0.999
2005 . . 64500 . . 1.02 est
2006 . . 65790 . . 1.02 est

2006 is estimated at 65093

The "backlash" is against the Democrats, not the Republicans. In the correct time frame this could have been true but since the Republican are current party in power the backlash is theirs.
I'm sorry, try a hard as you can, you can't spin this one, the backlash is striking back at the party in power.
The American People wanted to trust GWB and GWB has violated that trust The Republican attack dogs are running scared, looking for diversions and someone else to blame.

Kyoto??? US and the Chinese, peoples rights? Shoot and pollute.

In an America where the economy today is not only extremely strong, but strengthening as the rest of the world is weakening
Well, that all happened in the Clinton era.

Since GWB was elected we've had the biggest market crash since 1929 (percentage terms not 'points')
In an effort to prevent 'deflation' AG cut interest rates to the bone which worked (good for him) and boosted the housing industry. Unfortunately, this little perk up has begun to sag which is not a good sign (housing related stuff is the major percentage of the GDP)

As for "the rest of the world is weakening", you don't have a clue. The US economy is no longer the only major world economy, you have to include the EU, China, Japan and India as major players. The USA benefitted from the ongoing infrastructure buildout in China (of course we have an astronomical trade defecit with them but no matter, we'll just devalue the dollar.)
I could go on, but I won't.

so screw Bush and his policies

I'm a LIBERAL and PROUD OF IT

12/31/2005 03:30:00 PM  
Anonymous Lefty said...

If anyone's interested in a daily politics shouting match, here's a fun blog:

www.bareknucklepolitics.com

The comments board tends to be right-wing, juvenile and foul-mouthed but still fun if you just want to let it rip ...

12/31/2005 04:01:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Median Income:
"Although the economy expanded solidly in 2004, the inflation-adjusted income of the median household was unchanged and remains $1,700, or 3.8%, below its most recent peak in 1999, according to yesterday's release by the U.S. Bureau of the Census."
"The 2004 level of median household income—$44,389—was slightly below the 2003 level, but the change was not statistically significant. However, the 1.2% decline in real household income for non-elderly families from 2003 to 2004 was statistically significant, again implicating a weak job market in these results. Since 2000, the median household income of non-elderly households is down $2,572 (or 4.8%) compared to $1,669 (or 3.6%) for all households."
"The real income of the typical household has fallen five years in a row, despite the fact that the last three of those years—2002, 2003, and 2004—have been years of economic expansion. Over these years, our workforce has become a great deal more productive, as output per hour is up 15% from 2000 to 2004. Yet, as shown in Figure 1, these productivity gains have failed to reach the typical household."
Here's the link:http://www.epinet.org/content.cfm/webfeatures_econindicators_income20050831

12/31/2005 06:53:00 PM  
Blogger Ron Diorio said...

Bill

The only poll that counts is on election day.

Ed

I suspect that a Hillary presidential run will refinance the conservative movement for the next 20 years. So becareful of where the backlash comes form.

From The Economist
Special Report: The poor

http://economist.com/world/displaystory.cfm?story_id=5323888&no_jw_tran=1

"European countries tend to use relative measures of poverty. A household with an income less than 50% or 60% of the national median counts as poor. This has the perverse result that if the country gets richer, the poverty rate can still rise, as long as incomes at the top and in the middle rise faster than those at the bottom.

America, more sensibly, uses an absolute standard. The “poverty threshold”, created in the mid-1960s, was based on an estimate of how much an adequate diet might cost, multiplied by three. This figure is adjusted for inflation each year, but is otherwise unchanged. So the fact that, according to the Census Bureau, the share of Americans in poverty rose between 1974 and 2004, from 11.2% to 12.7%, ought to be a cause for shame.

But it is not, because American poverty statistics are misleading. For one thing, the poor rarely stay that way. In 1996-99, only 2% of Americans were poor every month over the full four-year period. And life appears, by most measures, to have improved. Poor people today live longer, spend longer in education and are more likely to have jobs. Fewer live in substandard houses, more have cars, fridges, boomboxes and other necessities that were luxuries a couple of generations ago.

How, then, to account for the apparent rise in poverty? It is partly a matter of definition. Some non-cash benefits, such as food stamps, housing assistance and Medicaid, are excluded from the calculation. And the raw data must be wrong. Nicholas Eberstadt of the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think-tank, notes that while reported annual income for the poorest fifth of households in 2003 was $8,201, their reported expenditure was $18,492. Nobody can explain this vast discrepancy."

Weren't all the blue staters supposed to be in Canada or Cannes by now?

12/31/2005 07:07:00 PM  
Anonymous George said...

anon, yep. I didn't explain the string of numbers in my prior comment.
The table starts with the first income in the list (1998 - $56,061) and adjusts it for each year using the CPI, simple math. Moreover, over the last several years they have been fiddling with the CPI calculations and in my opinion the way it is currently calculated understates inflation. (Part of this is due to an arcane way of calculating housing costs) Regardless, look at the price of gold or the value of the dollar as an indicator of what a bucks really worth.

Conveniently ignored is the slowly increasing percentage of the population living below the poverty level. This number tends to be somewhat cyclical but has been rising ever since GWB was elected.

12/31/2005 07:12:00 PM  
Anonymous George said...

The "ta da" American Enterprise Institute, yee haw I sure trust anything they have to say, yup yup.

You wanna know how all those poor folks make up that discrepancy? The're selling dope and robbing rich people of course.

There is more wealth, true but it's concentrated in fewer hands than any time in the last 100 years.

12/31/2005 07:39:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wonderful post Edward. Backlash is coming but will it last?

The thing is one suicide bomber in the U.S. or something happening in any subway or mall and the public will be clamoring for the government to take away more of our rights, and the fear-mongering media will be leading the charge. We'll be right back to September 12th and they'll take advantage yet again.

12/31/2005 08:22:00 PM  
Anonymous George said...

anon, ... and they'll take advantage yet again

Not if people speak up and ask how. How, yes HOW, with all the sneaky, unconstitutional, invasions of privacy coupled with a hundred million dollars of our tax money did this (whatever it is) happen? How?

OR, something like, when they came for me, there was no one left to speak up?

12/31/2005 08:49:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thought it was interesting how on the same day the Republicans cut funding for childrens hospitals in this country they awarded a contract to provide universal health care for every man, woman, and child in Iraq.

12/31/2005 09:57:00 PM  
Blogger James W. Bailey said...

Dear Edward,

This is a terrific post and discussion. It inspired my end of year fundraising rant appeal. You can read it at Black Cat Bone - http://blackcatbone.blogspot.com/2006/01/happy-new-year-from-lower-ninth-ward.html#links

I wish you the best during 2006.

Happy New Year from what's left of New Orleans!

James

1/01/2006 05:04:00 PM  
Blogger Bill Gusky said...

I GOT A FACELIFT BABEEEEEE!!! YAH-HEY FOR THE BACKLASH!!! It's the best we can hope for. MAKE IT LAST!!! KEEP THE BIG MO GOING!!! ROCK ON IN 2006!!! Peace 'n' love - B

1/01/2006 09:17:00 PM  
Blogger Jackmormon said...

Ed, aren't you obliged to cross-post political rants like these? ;)

1/02/2006 12:27:00 AM  

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