Esoteric Dissertations from a One-Track Mind

January 21, 2009

A Perfect Metaphor

Filed under: politics — Tags: , — codesmithy @ 9:00 am

Barack Obama became the 44th president of the United States yesterday.  Still, there were reminders of the Bush legacy as Chief Justice Roberts managed to bungle the oath of office

Several news commentators expressed their disgust for people in the crowd who had the audacity to boo and taunt the 43rd.  I think Bush deserves no more respect than he has shown.  There are those who would say we should act like bigger people and be gracious in victory.  However, it is that very graciousness that would allow Bush to whitewash the past.  If the public does not repudiate Bush then who will?  The lapdog press?  No, it has been and will continue to be the people.  If Chris Matthews doesn’t like it then it is because his nose is too brown and must have come to the conclusion that everything now smells like roses. 

It is beyond a reasonable doubt that Bush has committed war crimes.  The United States has water-boarded prisoners, Bush has admitted to authorizing it.  

Call me cynical, but it is not clear whether Obama will prosecute.  Failure to prosecute Bush for his crimes would demonstrate a supreme lack of principle and moral courage on the part of the Obama administration.  He may deem it impractical or too alienating, but the simple truth of the matter is that Barack Obama would find himself face to face with injustice, with the power to stand for what is right, and would turn his back like so many others.  Denying justice would be an action of a small man.  Yes, it might grease the wheels with some Republicans to help pass a stimulus package, but such victories are fleeting, and such compromises seldom last.  It is impossible honor an agreement between two parties without mutual respect, and likewise, it is impossible to respect a man who compromises his principles.

But regardless of what Obama does, I will continue to call for justice.  Unlike Obama, I cannot drag George W. Bush into a court of law.  All I can do is voice my disapproval, and emphatically point out that George W. Bush never represented me or what I believe in.

June 16, 2008

The Disquieting Keith Olbermann

The New Yorker has a piece called “One Angry Man: Is Keith Olbermann changing TV news?” by Peter J. Boyer. In itself, the title tacitly embraces the right-wing caricature of Olbermann: he is angry. The piece never fully examines the reasons why Olbermann is angry, just the fact that he is. With the deliberate removal of context, one is left to conclude that Olbermann is irrationally angry. It focuses on what he said, not the context with which he said it. It only focuses on the most shallow aspects: can you believe that Olbermann told the president of the United States of America to “Shut the hell up?” That is outrageous!

The context of Olbermann is that there is little doubt that George W. Bush and his agents broke the law. Bush already commuted the sentence of Lewis “Scooter” Libby. It was the recommendation of James Madison that any President caught using his power in such a fashion should be impeached. Dennis Kucinich presented 34 other articles which can be read in summary here. So it is worth reflecting on the journalism surrounding another President worthy of impeachment: Richard M. Nixon.

As Hunter S. Thompson put it in “He Was a Crook:”

Some people will say that words like scum and rotten are wrong for Objective Journalism — which is true, but they miss the point. It was the built-in blind spots of the Objective rules and dogma that allowed Nixon to slither into the White House in the first place. He looked so good on paper that you could almost vote for him sight unseen. He seemed so all-American, so much like Horatio Alger, that he was able to slip through the cracks of Objective Journalism. You had to get Subjective to see Nixon clearly, and the shock of recognition was often painful.

It is that subjective substance that Olbermann puts back into the news. The objective model of journalism works on the heuristic that the truth lies somewhere in between two adversarial actors. This is the same sensibility that is the basis for our justice system. The system is not perfect however. Along with adversarial debaters, there are the independent analysts that the news sources rely upon. News about the Pentagon Military Analysts program received a virtual blackout from the mainstream news media, but shows how journalism can be sock-puppeted.

Another consequence is that when there exists a bipartisan consensus, certain issues never get discussed at all. For example, there is a largely bipartisan project to erode the civil liberties of Americans. Democratic leadership just does not see it in their interest to defend civil liberties or to hold corporations who broke the law at the order of the president accountable for their crimes.

Arianna Huffington also lodges the complaint that it leaves equal time for lies in her book “Right Is Wrong: How the Lunatic Fringe Hijacked America, Shredded the Constitution, and Made Us All Less Safe.”

The baffling inability of the mainstream media to cull consistently bad sources of information is as astounding as their inability to recognize their own fault in being too deferential to their sources.  There are rare exceptions as Glenn Greenwald documents but many remain mystified, including those who appear on MSNBC.

Finally, there is the final fault that is clearly on display in this piece, no linking to more in-depth information about each of the episodes.  Is the Boyer giving a fair summarization of the episodes he describes?  It isn’t easy to find out.  Gore Vidal calls us the United States of Amnesia.  I believe one of the reasons for this is because modern news isn’t directly linked to prior episodes, so people can’t see the larger narrative.   This is despite of the fact that the technology is readily available.

So, as we watched this radical rise of the unitary executive, the proper question is not: why was this one man so angry?  It is: why weren’t there more people like him?

June 10, 2008

Kucinich Submits 35 Articles of Impeachment

Filed under: impeachment, politics — Tags: , , — codesmithy @ 5:59 pm

Dennis Kucinich presented 35 articles of impeachment last night.  Yup, Democracy Now and blogs are about the only places where you are going to see it covered.  Over at the Daily Kos, they have a short summary of all the articles.  It is worth noting each article is an impeachable offense and each was well documented.

Democratic leadership still considers impeachment off the table.  This has to be the most politically feckless position imaginable.   Imagine, a political party unwilling to engage in a debate about how horrible the opposition party is.  Republican equate Democrats to Nazi appeasers.  The best the Democrats come back with is if we are Nazi appeasers than so are you (see Secretary of Defense Gates).

Even if an impeachment resolution doesn’t go anywhere, one would think Democrats would see the advantage to be had to remind the American people of how horrible the current Republican president has been, and to remind the American people of all the things that made him unpopular to begin with, certainly Kucinich reminded me of a few offenses I might had previously forgotten.

Democrats have control of congress.  They do have some ability to control the topic of debate.  Yet, they refuse to use the power which they have vested, whereas the president uses all of his power and usurped a few powers he doesn’t actually have.  In response, the Democratic leadership does nothing and can do nothing.  We are in the midst of a constitutional crisis, except that one side decided not to play, decided not to use the only they had to contain a destructive presidency: impeachment.  The constitutional government has failed and there were two parts to the failure: a presidency that usurped the power and a congress unwilling to check the power of the executive using the only effective means they had.  As is stand, the legacy of George W. Bush will pass without an official word of condemnation.  A guarantee that there will be more presidents like George W. Bush to come.

May 28, 2008

Bush Gets Whacked By Former Press Secretary

Filed under: books, media, politics — Tags: , — codesmithy @ 9:22 am

The Politico has a review of Scott McClellan’s scathing memoir “What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception.” The story of how Politico got the book before its publication date is a little bit of a mystery. Apparently, they purchased it from a Washington bookstore. What was said store doing selling the book before its publication date? I imagine the publisher is pissed. Regardless, McClellan apparently gives his insights into the Plame leak, the run up to the war, and his general feeling about the administration.

McClellan said that Bush ran his administration like a campaign. As the Politico notes:

McClellan repeatedly embraces the rhetoric of Bush’s liberal critics and even charges: “If anything, the national press corps was probably too deferential to the White House and to the administration in regard to the most important decision facing the nation during my years in Washington, the choice over whether to go to war in Iraq.

“The collapse of the administration’s rationales for war, which became apparent months after our invasion, should never have come as such a surprise. … In this case, the ‘liberal media’ didn’t live up to its reputation. If it had, the country would have been better served.”

It is one thing for the disenfranchised left to complain about the lack of anti-war voices in the run up to the war and how the mainstream media left many of the administration claims about Iraq go unchallenged. Coming from McClellan, it is hard to call his endorsement of such views anything other than “blame the victim.”

We sometimes forget the incredible amount of national unity the United States had in the wake of 9/11. The need for unity; the need to put disagreements aside and work together for a common purpose in the name of our collective safety was real, is real. Like McClellan, I have no doubt Bush is an “authentic” and “sincere” man. I have no doubt he believed he was doing the right thing and felt he had a messianic purpose to lead this nation. However, he did something that was unforgivable. He cooked the books, excluded those who disagreed, kept the whole story secret and filtered facts to build the case for his desired purpose.

In short, he used us. He didn’t rule by consensus. He ruled by marginalizing all those who disagreed. He never started administrating. He just continued campaigning. Anyone who dared question his proposed course of action stood accused of helping the terrorists. The disaster he caused, with his war of choice, is larger than that caused by the terrorists he demonized. Despite Bush’s views on the matter, criticism and informed public debate is essential. It helps vet the thinking and ferrets out the bad ideas and mistaken assumptions. Bush wanted none of it. Of course, what should we expect from a failed oil man?

Bush was also helped by Fox News. If the “liberal” media failed to report something, they risked being scooped by Fox and the only thing worse in mainstream media than being wrong, is getting beat to a story.

Bush remains sure that history will vindicate him. I highly doubt that it will. The Iraq War will forever be Bush’s War in much the same way Vietnam was President Johnson’s. If Bush doesn’t have his foreign policy record to hang his hat on, it is hard to imagine the range of domestic crises throughout his presidency would bolster his record. Years from now, I think will be to pull a McClellan, blame others in the administration and ultimately those who elected him. He may have a point, although it doesn’t change the fact we were betrayed.

Update: Glenn Greenwald has more about the McClellan revelations.

April 30, 2008

Bush: The Multi-Generational Disaster

Filed under: politics — Tags: , , , — codesmithy @ 8:35 am

George W. Bush is trying hard to secure his crown as the worst president ever. At a recent press conference, he proposed his solution to high gas prices: open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling. This is about par for the course for the Republican party, McCain proposed a summer gas-tax holiday.

The real question is how the Republican party taken seriously. We can start with the gas-tax holiday. Remove the tax, fine, how are you going to pay for the roads? In case one hasn’t noticed our road infrastructure isn’t doing so great. In fact, you could accurately say it is falling down. Since the tax is already on a per-gallon basis, it isn’t like the public coffers are overflowing. There hasn’t been a wonderful explanation of where that money is going. Although, if gas is at record prices and corporations are recording record profits, I don’t really see how it is really much of a mystery. Well, we have $16 billion accounted for, how much are we looking for again?  I expect another couple billion will show up in the next couple of days as other oil companies report their profits.

Bush said in his policy proposal that he was “hoping now people, when they say “ANWR,” means you don’t care about the gasoline prices that people are paying.”

Fine, I’ll take that incrimination.  I realize that $3.50 as opposed to $4.00 makes a difference to people’s lives today.  But I also realize that $.50 cents of cheaper gas comes at the cost of our environment, pumps more carbon dioxide into our atmosphere, and delays us from transitioning our infrastructure.  In the end game, it won’t make a lick of difference because oil has no future for another reason.  And that reason is China.  You know, our largest creditor.  See, they are going to start using that money we keep giving to them.  When they do, they are competing with us for oil on a dollar for dollar basis.  There is no brilliant strategy here.  There is no monetary option beyond inflation to counteract that massive credit they have over us, but inflation hardly helps us obtain foreign commodities (like oil).  In short, to spite China’s debt we’d end up destroying our own currency and we still wouldn’t get gas.  Cheap oil is at an end.  We’ve already given it away for cheap Chinese products.  It is time to move on.

But if I allow the president’s incrimination, then I feel I should be able to offer one in return.  If there is any justice in this world, or sense of proportion, then there is one thing I hope for: that the Republican party becomes synonymous with disaster.  The disaster of the 9/11 attacks which any competent administration would have done more to prevent.  The disaster of the government response to Hurricane Katrina.  The disaster of our crumbling infrastructure.  The disaster of our soaring debt.  The disaster of Enron.  The disaster of the credit crisis.  The disaster of our endless war in Iraq.  The disastrous decline of American standing and reputation around the world.  There will, no doubt, be countless others.

Although, what makes me laugh, what really tickles my fancy is that Bush thinks history will judge him kindly.  It is that extra-touch that makes him truly spectacular failure: certitude.  And this Republican party, with an extraordinarily small number of exceptions, goose-stepped down the path the Glorious Road the Fearless Leader hath blazed.  Lest we forget, one of those loyal followers was McCain.

Bush is the Chernobyl of presidents, a multi-generational disaster.  His embrace should render one politically radioactive.  His legacy should be toxic.  Electing another Republican as president should make as much sense as doubling-down a busted hand.  That is what I hope for, my pillaging president.

March 26, 2008

Bush’s War

Filed under: media, politics — Tags: , , , — codesmithy @ 9:57 am

Frontline ran an amazing two part program called “Bush’s War.”  It can be viewed online here.  It isn’t a complete picture of Iraq, however it gives insight into the behind-the-scenes political battles that took place surrounding the war.

I don’t want to belabor any of the points.  However, a couple things are clear.  First, Rumsfeld was hopelessly deluded about the war.  The disastrous post-invasion looting was due directly to his incompetence.  The torture of prisoners for information is something he directly authorized.

Second, Rice failed her way upwards.  She was a central piece to the intelligence failure on September 11th.  Although, in her defense, it is unclear how willing higher ups in the administration were willing to listen.  She is the adamant stay-the-course adherent.  Her advocacy of Clear-Hold-Build, while sound is way too little, way too late.  We don’t have the troop levels.  We spent the political capital we had in Iraq.  There is not enough popular support here at home.  Even if we had the strategy from the get go, and the resources, it is unclear how effectively it would work.

Finally, Bush is one of the worst executives in history.  He is in love with his own myth:  the down to brass tacks, no nonsense, straight-talking, brave commander-in-chief.  He lies to himself.  His largely unconfrontational personality coupled with the perfect storm of persuasive bureaucrats such as Cheney, Rumsfeld, Powell or Tenet created a culture of exclusion.  The alienation of leaving people out of the loop created tensions and frayed his administration.  There is one decisive reason for this: the president was exceptionally lazy.  Not lazy physically, lazy intellectually.  He didn’t want to be president.  He wanted to play president.  He wanted to make big decisions.  He didn’t want to get bogged down in details.  He wanted to look people in the eye, see their soul, and trust his gut.  In the short term, it is Bush’s failure.  However, in the long view, it is America’s failure.  This legacy will be passed onto the next president and the repercussions will be laid at the feet of future generations of Americans.  There is no way history will judge anyone kindly in this debacle, including the American people.

January 29, 2008

Bush’s Final State of the Union

Filed under: politics — Tags: , — codesmithy @ 8:31 am

I don’t really know what you can really say about it.  The reality distortion field around the man is epic.  I considered it particularly ballsy to make reference to “A Charge to Keep.”  Harper’s Magazine has an article that deals with Bush’s vision and irony.  Given what a hit this article was online, I was honestly surprised he wanted to mention it.  However, it seems to be the title of a book about him, so maybe he is trying to improve its sales for life after office.

In all honesty, I don’t care if the Democrats do anything this session in Congress.  OK, so they don’t have the votes for impeachment.  However, I would rather see nothing done than watch Democrats cave to this President’s petulant demands.  Practically everything he is advocating is a policy disaster waiting to happen.  The President constantly and consistently proves his uncompromising nature.  I know some Democrats feel the need to be the adults in this situation, the responsible ones.  However, being responsible in this case is to also be complicit in the President’s crimes.

This President can still do plenty of damage his last months in office.  The success of this Congress will not be judged on what gains they managed secure, but rather what further damage they were able to prevent.

November 9, 2007

The Economic Consequences of Mr. Bush

Filed under: economy, politics — Tags: — codesmithy @ 9:33 am

Joseph E. Stiglitz, a Nobel laureate, envisions a crippling legacy and generation-long struggle to recoup from the policies of George W. Bush in Vanity Fair.  I think Stiglitz lays out the indictment of Bush’s policies masterfully.  Although I am going to miss the luxuries and hope that I can maintain the necessities for the upcoming crisis, I can’t help but feel that there is something terribly wrong with the soul of America.  It is the apathy, complacency, ignorance and stupidity that is reflected in our politics and discourse.  A corruption that the citizens of this country have allowed to fester.

I think the underlying problem of Bush is that citizens of this country did not live up to their duty as citizens in a democracy, so when the time came, neither did their elected representatives.   A few did, but too few.  Now, everyone is going to pay the price.  We were warned, but paid no heed.

However, in this oncoming crisis, I do see hope.  We are still a democracy.  We still have a good deal of freedom.  With economic distress, we can hope to break people out of their apathy.  This country has an admirable history of overcoming crises and challenges although it has not necessarily been pretty.  And, a part of me wishes we never went down the road we chose to travel.   But, that is all water under the bridge.  The real question is: where do we go from here?

The answer is that we undermine the political parties that got us into this mess.  How we do it is by changing conditions that necessitated their rise, namely the simple majority voting system we are currently using.  If we replace it with something like Single Transferable Vote, it would prevent the self-censorship at the voting booth that currently takes place.  For example, in the 2000 election, people could still vote for Nader and not help Bush, because they would still presumably still prefer Gore.    Eliminating this self-censorship would also go a long way towards also undermining the media’s ability to determine the candidates by naming perceived leaders, because there is no more throwing one’s vote away by voting for a third party.  That one structural change would immeasurably help make America a more vibrant democracy.  This, in addition to the force that is netroots and information conduit that is the Internet, I think America can become a modern embodiment of an ideal Jeffersonian democracy.  None of this will happen as long as the American people are apathetic.

While Bush is the worst President in American history and the burden he laid at our feet will be felt for years to come, I am confident that America can overcome it and we can become a better place because of it, if we choose to.

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