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Saturday, January 04, 2003

 
BUSH FLIP-FLOPS, AGAIN.

The latest topic for President Flip-Flop is deficit reduction.

Via Hesiod, this link to the latest from Jonathan Chait in The New Republic.

From Chait's article, a TIMELINE of BUSH DUPLICITY on DEFICITS:

March 2001: "We can proceed with tax relief without fear of budget deficits, even if the economy softens."

Summer, Fall 2001: Budget forecasts first showed deficits on the horizon. Bush dismisses them as "speculative" and "guesswork."

Spring 2002: Deficits appear inevitable, Bush insists they will be "small and temporary" and said he is "mindful of what overspending can mean to interest rates or expectations of interest rates."

Campaign Season 2002: "For the sake of fiscal sanity, the United States Senate must ... get us to head towards a balanced budget."

January 2003: Deficits -- big, Reaganesque deficits -- are here to stay, and Republicans are in charge of both houses of Congress. R. Glenn Hubbard, chairman of Bush's Council of Economic Advisers denies deficits are harmful and the White House issues charts and graphs to support his argument.


posted by Fred Clark 6:30 PM

 
BUCK STOPS HERE.

Bush takes credit, until credit turns to blame.

This was Tuesday's AP story on the FBI's high-publicity search for five swarthy foreigners who may have entered the country illegally:

President George W. Bush said Tuesday he personally ordered the FBI to begin a nationwide hunt for five men believed to have entered the country from Canada on Christmas Eve.

The president is a take-charge, hands-on guy isn't he? Personally taking responsibility for domestic security and the safety of the American people. But the hands-on, personally responsible president didn't comment when the story took this twist:

A Pakistani jeweler said Wednesday his picture is among those of five foreign-born men the FBI says may have entered the United States on falsified passports. He said he has never visited the United States.

And today (via Atrios) we have this article from the Globe and Mail, which mocks the entire dragnet as an ill-conceived publicity stunt gone awry:

Like the posthumous Elvis Presley, Canada's five mysterious terror suspects seem to have popped up everywhere. ...

By the middle of this week, they had starred in hundreds of newspaper and television reports and had been on the lips of everyone from U.S. President George W. Bush to Senator Hilary Clinton, who announced at a press conference that they had entered the United States through Canada.

But yesterday, the FBI admitted that the most important ingredient in the story -- that is, the proof -- is nowhere to be found: "There is no border-crossing information that would say they're here," FBI spokesman Ed Cogswell said. "And to say they came in from Canada is pure speculation."

Mr. Cogswell's comments are the latest wrinkle in an odd, highly hyped saga that began on Dec. 29 ...


[It began Dec. 29, remember, When President Bush personally ordered it.]

"We're chasing rumours," a senior RCMP officer said. "We don't know if these five men were ever in Canada and we certainly have no proof whatsoever that they crossed into the United States either legally or illegally."

Asked what might have triggered the initial FBI allegation about the five Middle Eastern men entering the U.S. from Canada, the Mountie replied caustically: "It was a slow week at the White House. They needed something to stir the pot because nothing was happening in Iraq."


George W. Bush -- hands-on and in-charge.

posted by Fred Clark 2:50 PM

 
KABOOM.

The sound you hear is Mickey Kaus' head exploding
after reading the latest column from E.J. Dionne.


Dionne's column starts out like this:

Consider two great cliches of American public life: The best social program is a job, and welfare reform is a brilliant success.

Mickey Kaus once wrote an insightful, heartfelt book about welfare reform. The centerpiece of that book was a call for a new WPA-style federal jobs program that would guarantee work for every American. Such a jobs program would allow the end of "welfare as we know it."

In 1996, Congress passed half-a-loaf -- and it was the wrong half. They abandoned the idea of a guaranteed job, but started kicking everybody off of welfare anyway by imposing a 5-year-limit.

The analogue here is what happened with the big, industrial mental hospitals in the 1980s. Everybody who cared about the people in those hospitals wanted to see them shut down and campaigned hard to see them replaced with smaller facilities and group-homes that would provide better care. Such facilities would allow state governments to close the big hospitals for good. But the state governments thought this bird could fly with only one wing, and they only passed half the agenda -- they closed down the big hospitals, but failed adequately to fund the group homes and smaller facilities.

Mickey Kaus embraced the 1996 welfare reform bill with a creepy enthusiasm -- abandoning his earlier stance and the heart and brains of his book. He seems to have forgotten entirely his eloquent demand for the justice of full employment, becoming a one-note cheerleader parroting the second of Dionne's cliches: "welfare reform is a brilliant success ... welfare reform is a brilliant success ... welfare reform is ..."

All of this is just to say that it makes me happy to think that Dionne's column will disturb Mickey's sleep like the ghost of Christmas present ...


posted by Fred Clark 2:44 AM

 
HOOEY AND HOOAH.

Bush can't wait for war, but soldiers say
"that is enough of your drivel -- sit down."


President Bush visited Ft. Hood, Texas, to eat roast beef and corn, and to warn American troops, the American people, the U.N. and Saddam Hussein that war is likely -- and likely sooner rather than later. ("Bush's aides have scheduled no presidential travel for February," Mike Allen reports in the Washington Post -- nudge, nudge, wink, wink.)

Bush hit many of the appropriate applause lines in his speech -- though much of it was garbled by the president's use of the syntax thing:

"You will be fighting not to conquer anybody," he told the soldiers, "but to liberate people." He managed to stop short of adding "and, you know, stuff like that," although it seemed implied.

His crescendo was an unctuous applause-line stolen from lounge singers everywhere ("I love Cleveland, it's the greatest city in the world ..."):

"If force becomes necessary to secure our country and to keep the peace," Bush told the troops, "America will act deliberately, America will act decisively, and America will prevail because we've got the finest military in the world."

The soldiers, a sea of flag-waving camouflage fatigues that melted into the camouflage-covered walls, responded with an approving "Hooah!"


Allen assumes the soldiers' "Hooah!" was "approving," but the term can be ambiguous -- as this site will attest.

True, "Hooah!" is often used to mean "yes" or "amen" -- but it is also often used to mean "go to the next [briefing] slide" or "you've got to be kidding" or "I don't know what that means, but am too embarrassed to ask for clarification."

The term "Hooah" is defined here as meaning "anything and everything except 'no.' Generally used when at a loss for words." This broad, catch-all word can even mean "that is enough of your drivel -- sit down."

I wasn't at Ft. Hood, but considering that the soldiers were addressing a deserter who regularly exhibits contempt for veterans and he has just told them that he is eager to send them off to war, it's at least possible that the soldiers' "Hooah" for this president meant something less than "Yay George! Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori!"

= = = = = = = = = = = =

Bush ... reminded the soldiers that they already are serving in the war against terrorism, saying the country "can't wait for another attack to employ the full power of America in this cause."

I know the war on terrorism is a "different kind of war" -- but what kind of bizarro-war is it if the commander in chief has to remind the soldiers they're fighting it?

Can you imagine Patton "reminding" his troops that they were fighting World War 2? Or Henry V at Agincourt "reminding" his men that they were fighting the French?

Now set the teeth and stretch the nostril wide,
Hold hard the breath and bend upon every spirit
To his full height. On, on, you noblest English,
Because, I hope you will recall, we are
Already at war with, you know, the French.


And it does not seem to distort any of Bush's real meaning if you compact his phrase:

"[this nation] can't wait for another attack to employ the full power of America in this cause"

into

"can't wait ... to employ the full power of America."








posted by Fred Clark 2:22 AM


Friday, January 03, 2003

 
CLONAID VS. CONEHEAD.

They sound alike. They even kind of look alike. So here's a few handy tips to help you keep from confusing the Coneheads and Clonaids.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

CONEHEADS: Claim to be from France, but are actually highly intelligent alien beings from another planet.

CLONAIDS: Claim to be highly intelligent alien beings from another planet, but are actually from France.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

CONEHEADS: Derive their name from their freakishly high, hairless foreheads.

CLONAIDS: Have freakishly high, hairless foreheads, but do not derive their name from this.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

CONEHEADS: Although originally arriving on earth as alien invaders (they came to seize and establish the planet as a minor refueling station for the star cruiser of the High Master of Remulak), the Coneheads ultimately chose to assimilate and live as good neighbors with their fellow earthlings.

CLONAIDS: Although originally arriving on earth as earthlings, the Clonaids have chosen to become alien invaders -- creating cloned offspring to be treated as their personal minor refueling stations, the soulless future hosts of their memories and personalities, and "second, to 'build the embassy' (welcome Our Creators to earth in around 2035") [see here].

- - - - - - - - - - -

CONEHEADS: Was a pretty bad movie, but otherwise mostly harmless.

CLONAIDS: Seem like a bad movie, but are far from mostly harmless.






posted by Fred Clark 5:05 AM

 
FACT-CHECKING, PLEASE HELP.

Did Jimmy Carter really carry empty luggage?

Revisiting this, since I still haven't gotten to the bottom of it:

On Dec. 27, the AP released Jennifer Loven's love-letter to President Bush. Praising Mr. Bush for his down-home, just-folks-iness, Ms. Loven pauses her lap-dogging just long enough for an aside to take this swipe at Jimmy Carter:

President Carter insisted on carrying his own luggage -- a garment bag later discovered to have been empty all along.

Loven asserts this as though it were common wisdom -- but I can find no account anywhere supporting this claim. Anybody? Can anybody back her up on this, or is Ms. Loven just passing along urban legends?

Anybody?





Bueller?






posted by Fred Clark 5:03 AM


Thursday, January 02, 2003

 
THE MAN ON LINCOLN'S NOSE.

Photographs I never wanted to see, No. 38,462.

President Bush's pose in this AP photo is apparently meant to convey his historic stature as a great president.

Somehow instead it just makes me think of James Mason in North by Northwest.





posted by Fred Clark 11:31 PM

 
PREDICTION.

Inspired by this lovely list of predictions for the new year from Textism, I offer the following glimpse of the future, an excerpt from a future AP story on the resignation of a certain public official:

Ari Fleischer was vague and evasive in response to questions about his future career plans. Mr. Fleischer also denied ever having worked as White House Press Secretary. ...

UPDATE: The final word on predictions for 2003 comes from BillMon, subbing in at Daily Kos.



posted by Fred Clark 5:31 PM

 
PRIORITIES.

"They won't talk about the homeless and the poor."

The newspaper I work for, like many, ran a brief version of this AP story about freshman running back Maurice Clarett's frustration that his team's involvement in the national championship caused him to miss the funeral of a friend.

That story -- like this one and this one -- stuck with the party-line media spin on Clarett and his "distracting" and "controversial" comments. The spin is this: the little whiner should shut up and help his team focus on the championship.

Kudos to Hesiod for posting excerpts from and a link to a more responsible piece of journalism from The Sporting News.

Here is the story that USA Today found so distracting:

"Life's a whole lot more important than football, you know what I mean? We hold the national championship but they won't talk about the homeless and the poor," he said. "We're sitting here in this old grand hotel, things like that, but we can't feed the homeless or poor. . . . It's a game."

Clarett was a toddler when his father left home. His mother is the chief deputy clerk for the municipal court in Youngstown.

As he was growing up, he saw people killed in the streets. Once he was playing football in the street when a boy sitting nearby was killed in a drive-by shooting. Another time, Clarett was sitting on the front porch of the house he shared with his mother, grandmother, two brothers and 11 cousins. They saw a neighbor's friend be shot in the chest, crawl into Clarett's front yard and bleed to death.

Clarett said his goal was to funnel money back to people who need it the most.

"You go through downtown Columbus, you've got people sleeping on sidewalks. You know what I mean? And they're giving us scholarships and they're selling 100,000 tickets every game," he said.

"It's the richest part of Columbus, downtown, but you're walking past bums and homeless people. This is wintertime, it's like 19 degrees down there. They're sleeping in boxes and little covers. It don't make any sense to me."


Clarett worries about people sleeping on the streets of Columbus -- home of Ohio State. He worries about "the poor and the homeless." USA Today ignores all of that, except to worry that: "With such a significant game Friday, will the distraction hurt the focus of Clarett, as well as the team?"

Somebody's priorities are seriously out of whack, and that somebody isn't Maurice Clarett.



posted by Fred Clark 4:59 PM

 
HELLO HULLABALOO.

Digby addresses Ms. Noonan's short-term memory problem.

Posts like this demonstrate why many of us are pleased that the new year brings us a new blog from Koufax Award-winning commentor Digby.

Ms. Noonan condemned Minnesota Democrats for booing Trent Lott at the Wellstone memorial ("Trent Lott was a nice guy" she writes, in one of those Noonatic dream sequences of hers set at a hypothetical memorial service for the Mississippi senator). Then six weeks later -- six lousy weeks -- she's in high-dudgeon over Lott's public embrace of segregationist sympathy as she desperately seeks a toe-hold aboard the overcrowded bandwagon calling for Lott's resignation.


posted by Fred Clark 3:25 PM


Tuesday, December 31, 2002

 
NEW YEAR'S REVOLUTIONS II.

Schindler's List, Scene 255.

255. EXT. COURTYARD - BRINNLITZ CAMP - NIGHT. 255.

Schindler and Emilie emerge from his quarters, each carrying a small suitcase. In the dark, some distance away from his Mercedes, stand all twelve hundred workers. As Schindler and his wife cross the courtyard to the car, Stern and Levartov approach. The rabbi hands him some papers.

LEVARTOV
We’ve written a letter trying to explain
things. In case you’re captured. Every
workers has signed it.

Schindler sees a list of signatures beginning below the typewritten text and continuing for several pages. He pockets it, this new list of names.

SCHINDLER
Thank you.

Stern steps forward and places a ring in Schindler’s hand. It’s a gold band, like a wedding ring. Schindler notices an inscription inside it.

STERN
It’s Hebrew. It says, ‘Whoever saves
one life, saves the world.’

Schindler slips the ring onto a finger, admires it a moment, nods his thanks, then seems to withdraw.

SCHINDLER
(to himself)
I could’ve got more out …

Stern isn’t sure he heard right. Schindler steps away from him, from his wife, from the car, from the workers.

SCHINDLER
(to himself)
I could’ve got more … if I’d just … I don’t
know, if I’d just … I could’ve got more…

STERN
Oskar, there are twelve hundred people who
are alive because of you. Look at them.

SCHINDLER
If I’d made more money …I threw away
so much money, you have no idea.
If I’d just …

STERN
There will be generations because of
what you did.

SCHINDLER
I didn’t do enough.

STERN
You did so much.

SCHINDLER
This car. Goeth would’ve bought this car.
Why did I keep the car? Ten people,
right there, ten more I could’ve got.
(looking around)
This pin –
Two people. This is gold. Two more people.
He would’ve given me two for it. At least one.
He would’ve given me one. One more. One
more person. A person, Stern. For this.
One more. I could’ve gotten one more person
I didn’t.

He completely breaks down, weeping convulsively.

SCHINDLER
They killed so many people …
(Stern, weeping too, embraces him)
They killed so many people …

From above, from a watchtower, Stern can be seen down below, trying to comfort Schindler. Eventually, they separate, and Schindler and Emilie climb into the Mercedes. It slowly pulls out through the gates of the camp. And drives away.



posted by Fred Clark 1:37 PM

 
NEW YEAR'S REVOLUTIONS.

Why resolving to lose 5 pounds just doesn't cut it.

My alarm went off today to the usual radio station, but today that station had an unusual sponsor -- Weight Watchers.

It's a big time of year for the folks at Weight Watchers (no pun intended) -- lots of people across America making new year's resolutions to lose some of that extra weight.

That's fine, I guess, even admirable. "Sound mind in a sound body" and all that. I could stand to lose a few pounds myself and to get to wear those pants in the back of the closet again and New Year's seems as good a time as any to resolve to eat better and to exercise and to drink more water, etc.

Most such New Year's resolutions fail, of course, not because they're too difficult, but because they're too modest. "Without vision, people perish." Is this the most inspiring vision we can come up with for ourselves and our world in the new year? Tighter abs and better buns? This kind of literal navel-gazing is too narrow and superficial to satisfy any of us for very long.

Most New Year's resolutions are too easy -- too small. We need something bigger, something worthier of our aspirations, some pearl of great price in pursuit of which all these subsidiary goals -- losing 10 pounds, financial discipline, whatever -- will fall into place as well.

The world, as it is, is intolerable.

Look in any direction and you'll see a dozen pursuits -- a dozen problems, pains and people -- worthy of a New Year's revolution. Pick one. (Pick two, we've got a lot of work to do.)






posted by Fred Clark 1:31 PM


Monday, December 30, 2002

 
TESTAMENT.

"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith."
-- 2 Timothy 4:7


Three American missionaries slain in Yemeni hospital.

The quote that hit me hardest in this story is from Ira Myers, whose daughter, Dr. Martha Myers, had spent her life helping the sick and injured at the Baptist hospital in Jibla, Yemen:

"We are concerned for the people who have been getting their care from Martha and the others at the hospital. Now where do they go?" he asked.

Of such is the kingdom of heaven.

posted by Fred Clark 11:05 PM

 
HAL LINDSEY'S LATE GREAT CREDIBILITY.

Serially discredited crack-pot now online.

Pop-"prophet" Hal Lindsey was 1970s evangelicalism's answer to Sister Cleo. This is a man who made a fortune by doing to the Bible what Enron's accountants did to that company's ledgers.

In The Late Great Planet Earth, Lindsey reworked the half-baked heresies of 19th-century Darbyism into the best-selling book of the 1970s.

Now, thanks to Roger Ailes, I see that Hal Lindsey is back. He won't let a perfect record of forecasting futility keep him down for long. (Mr. Lindsey, to use the old economists' joke, has predicted 10 of the last zero apocalypses.) Despite nearly a dozen Great Disappointments, Lindsey rebounds with a Gangs-of-New-York mustache and an online "Oracle" in which he boldly predicts -- what else? -- the end of the world.

In a post below, I call for mutual respect of the religious beliefs of others. Yes, that respect must be extended even to those duped by no-talent flim-flammers like Hal Lindsey and Tim LaHaye. But the flim-flammers themselves are not guilty of victimless crimes. These charlatans take their misbegotten prophetic profits and invest them in 30-year bonds. We are not obliged to offer them our respect or even our civility. To deprive the ridiculous of our ridicule is a kind of injustice.



posted by Fred Clark 5:09 PM

 
BEATING A DEAD ECONOMY.

After domestic testing, Bush ready to launch latest weapon.

According to this BBC story:

The Bush administration is threatening North Korea with economic collapse if the communist state continues with its nuclear programme.

Hmm. North Korea is desperately poor, it's people already starving. And -- as the satellite photos Bush officials have been touting for nearly a year demonstrate so clearly -- it's hard to imagine a country being more isolated economically.

Yet Mr. Bush thinks somehow the threat of poverty and isolation will be effective here. You can't strip a naked man, Mr. Bush. And you can't force the collapse of an already collapsed economy.

(Which makes the policy illogical and ineffective. To the extent that the policy is at all effective, it's incredibly, appallingly immoral -- targeting civilians with the weapons of hunger and starvation. Mr. Bush: You're not allowed to kill civilians.)

Still, the North Koreans should consider this: from Arbusto to Harkin to the Federal Budget to Wall Street, if there's one thing George W. Bush has a talent for, it's economic collapse.


posted by Fred Clark 3:48 PM

 
70,000,000 PEOPLE.

Please go to Body and Soul right now for a must-read on the AIDS crisis in Africa.



posted by Fred Clark 2:03 PM

 
RUMORS OF ANGELS.

Why progressives need to learn to speak Hindi Senegalese.

Late in life, sociologist Peter Berger surrendered his unique perspective to become a sort of poor-man's Richard Neuhaus, but at one time he was an interesting student of religion (see especially A Rumor of Angels and The Sacred Canopy).

Regarding religion in America, Mr. Berger used to say that ours was "A nation of Indians ruled by Swedes."

When Berger first said that, the Swedes were the most secularized people on the planet, while India was the most thoroughly religious nation. As Berger saw it, America's leadership -- elites in politics, culture, art, media and entertainment -- often failed to communicate with the American people because of this religious culture gap.

The most recent poll from The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press confirms that religion1 is still perceived as significant for the majority of Americans:

Religion is much more important to Americans than to people living in other wealthy nations. Six-in-ten (59 percent) people in the U.S. say religion plays a very important role in their lives.

Political leaders in America tend either to sneer at, or to cynically exploit, the religious beliefs held by many, many of their fellow citizens. Both are forms of disrespect. And respect is what I'm arguing for here.

That 59 percent of Americans embraces a cornucopia of conflicting ideas and ideologies. Unanimity is not an option, but mutual respect is.2 Too often, progressives treat the religious beliefs of their fellow Americans as something disdainful that they need to "get over." That's no way to win support for our political agenda, and no way to regain a majority.

Anyway, according to the new Pew survey, the most religious nation these days is Senegal, while the least religious are France and the Czech Republic. So to update Berger, America would be a nation of Senegalese ruled by Frenchmen.

= = = = = = = = = =

1. Even America's atheists seem particularly devout. Just here in blogland, think of how many bloggers go out of their way to make a declaration of their faith (or un-faith). Theirs is not just a casual, only-on-Sundays atheism. It is a fervent, almost revivalistic atheism, a religious irreligiosity. Call it "avangelicalism" (no news is good news).

2. A story from Missiology 101:

In the 19th century, white missionaries arrive in an Indian village. The missionaries explain to the chief that they would like to tell his people the story of the Bible and the Christian's God. The chief thanked the missionaries and said he would be honored to hear their story. All the elders gathered together to sit and listen.

For three days, the white missionaries told the entire Christian story, from Genesis on through, and the chief and the elders sat and listened thoughtfully. When the missionaries finished, the chief said, "That's a great story. I like your story."

Then the chief called on one of the elders, who stood and began to tell the missionaries about First Man, who was made in the east from the white and black clouds, and First Woman, who was made in the west from the yellow and blue clouds ...

The missionaries were aghast. "Haven't you been listening?" they cried. "We've just spent three days explaining to you the truth!"

"Relax friend," the chief said. "We were listening. For three days we listened to your story. Now you must listen to ours."


posted by Fred Clark 1:25 PM


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