Notes on the Atrocities
Like a 100-watt radio station, broadcasting to the dozens...

Friday, January 31, 2003  

Lie (v.i.): To utter falsehood with an intention to deceive; to say or do that which is intended to deceive another, when he has a right to know the truth, or when morality requires a just representation.

--Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary

The question arises: when is it appropriate for the President to lie to the public?

Why does it arise? Because we have so many recent examples. In today's news alone, I've seen two articles that finger the President for outright lies and misuse of information; a third for stifling speech. And of course, there are the aluminum tubes, the tax cuts benefiting the "average citizen," lies about labor unions and more.

Today's reports involve--predictably--Iraq. In the first, Hans Blix calls Bush a liar. Follow the link to read the specific lies--there are three--but the upshot is this: he doesn't think a war is warranted and he's peeved that Bush is using his report to justify one.

The second report is far more disturbing. I haven't had a chance to roam the blogosphere today, but I'll be amazed if it isn't buzzing with news from the Times editorial asserting that Saddam didn't gas the Kurds. According to the author, Stephen C. Pelletiere (no random peacenik--a professor at the Army War College with access to classified material), the Kurds were caught in the crossfire between Iranian and Iraqi fighters and, based on analysis done of the dead, it appears more likely that Iranian gas killed the Kurds. In any case, the gas was employed during war. This is a very different story from the old "Saddam gassed his own people" saw. Furthermore, Pelletiere elaborates on the ulterior motive argument, adding water to the oil mix. It's absolutely shocking news.

Bush has never made a strong case for going to war against Iraq. He's argued two points--that Saddam's a very bad man and that Iraq's a "gathering danger." Most of the arguments he's made about the "gathering danger" have been questioned or proved to be lies. And so he was left with the moral argument, which no one has seen the need to refute. But this evidence (if true, always if true) throws even that into question.

It's always been the case that presidents lie. Sometimes it's necessary to protect the republic. In these cases, no one would argue the truth-at-any-cost line. Sometimes it's to cover up health problems or a seedy rendezvous. After eight years of blue dresses, I'm willing to let these go by, as well. But if the lies are to advance a secret agenda and subvert the intent of the constitution and undermine the republic, they are clearly the most dangerous threat to the US. One doesn't want to go too far on this, but even reasonable people are beginning to wonder about the constant stream of lies. I think it's time to start demanding answers about the President's intentions.

(On a more amusing note, Laura Bush's love affair with books may have hit a bump in the road. After inviting a group of poets to a White House symposium, she learned that they--shockingly--were not high on the whole dead Iraqi kids scenario. Turns out they were even going to use the event to voice their displeasure. Thus was the event scuttled.)

posted by Jeff | 11:02 AM |

Thursday, January 30, 2003  

Preacher George

George W. Bush is not boring. Not to liberals, not to conservatives. His is an administration to launch a thousand blogs. But among the manifold ways in which the President is not boring, I am particularly interested in the evolution of his personality. With his State of the Union address two nights ago, we saw he third face of his emerging persona. The first wave of SotU analysis focused chiefly (and appropriately) on his initiatives, but behind the hydrogen cars and aid to Africa (and of course, bombs over Baghdad), there was something else. Listen:

“As our nation moves troops and builds alliances to make our world safer, we must also remember our calling as a blessed country is to make this world better.”

This is a very different persona from the bump-along Governor of 1999 and 2000. The good ‘ol boy George of that era was distingushed mainly for being a nice guy. Buddy George, the kind of guy you’d like to drink beer with or catch a ballgame. If I were getting paid to blog, I’d do a little research into the adjectives reporters used then to describe him—I suspect they’d be in the “genial” cluster. (Of course I’m not, so we’ll just have to guess.)

But Buddy George died somewhere in a plane on the way to Nebraska on September 11th, 2001, presumably while he watched Rudy Giuliani bestride rubble and wreckage, striking courage into the hearts of shocked Americans. You see, this is the fascinating thing—the President has been a leader for less than a decade. Whereas most politicians polish their images in the relatively dim glow of state legislatures or on city councils, Bush is doing it before our eyes. September 11 accelerated the process, and from it emerged General George, “smoke ‘em out” George. This is the "bold" George about whom so much has been made since 9/11 (surf on over to the Daily Howler for the annals of boldness)--certainly a far cry from Buddy George.

Two nights ago, things got even more interesting. General George, who admittedly was getting a bit tedious, morphed into something new. General George was having to muck around with polls and allies, both of which seemed to indicate that they were wishing they could have Buddy George back. Instead, they got Preacher George.

Preacher George don't need no stinkin' allies. Preacher George doesn't care about polls. Preacher George has gone beyond politics and into faith.

"In each case, the ambitions of Hitlerism, militarism and communism were defeated by the will of free peoples, by the strength of great alliances and by the might of the United States of America.

Now, in this century, the ideology of power and domination has appeared again, and seeks to gain the ultimate weapons of terror. Once again this nation and all our friends are all that stand between a world at peace and a world of chaos and constant alarm. Once again we are called to defend the safety of our people and the hopes of all mankind. And we accept this responsibility."

Preacher George is confident in his policies, sure enough to be a true leader. Allies, polls, they may not reflect support, but that doesn't mean the support won't come. Of course it will come, once Preacher George shows the way...

"Americans are a free people, who know that freedom is the right of every person and the future of every nation. The liberty we prize is not America's gift to the world; it is God's gift to humanity.

We Americans have faith in ourselves but not in ourselves alone. We do not know - we do not claim to know all the ways of Providence, yet we can trust in them, placing our confidence in the loving God behind all of life and all of history.

May he guide us now, and may God continue to bless the United States of America."

Can I get an Amen!

posted by Jeff | 10:17 AM |

Wednesday, January 29, 2003  

The State of the Union by the Numbers

Total length of speech: 5,400 words*
Percent devoted to tax cuts: 10
On legislation to combat African AIDS: 6**
On the war on terror: 5
On hydrogen cars: 3
On race and affirmative action: 0

Axis of Evil
Percent devoted to Iraq: 25
Korea: 4
Iran: 1

Number of times "Saddam Hussein" was uttered: 19
"Osama bin Laden": 0
"God": 4

*New York Times transcript
**Initiative as a percent of projected 2003 budget: .1%

posted by Jeff | 10:19 AM |

Tuesday, January 28, 2003  

So the big news is the State of the Union Address. Will he or won't he make them love him again? Will his moral clarity clarify their feelings? Will they feel a rush of patriotism for the war on Iraq? Will they agree that the wealthy need lotsa dough to get this country moving again?

I have some thoughts.

To warm up, musings on what he'll say. The Bush rhetorical style is one that seeks to accomplish three goals, all of them as predictable as the rain in Portland. At the center, diffuse patriotic warm-fuzzies. This pleases everyone (or at least the 90% who responded to them after 9/11). It is also impossible to rebut. Thus we'll see cutaways to Dashle and Pelosi (not to mention Lieberman, Edwards, Gephardt, and Kerry) applauding dutifully.

Next, he'll lard the speech with buzzwords to appease the fantatics on the right. This is the Southern Strategy writ wide. The coded speech satisfies small constituents who understand the actual meaning of the words, while to Mr. and Mrs. Main Street, they sound like more diffuse warm fuzzies (see above). This means Bush will boldly stand against "quotas," while being for "choice" in schools. He'll dance around his "stimulus" package as a way to put money in the pockets of "average taxpayers" so that they (that's you, Ma and Pa Main Street) can get out there and start spending again. And on and on.

Finally, he'll put most of the force of his speech behind the attack on Iraq, natch. That's the rainmaker. The one bit of intrigue is how he'll package this, tricky as it has become. Expect him to hammer on Hans Blix's report and to scrupulously avoid mention of Kim Jong Ill, Osama bin Laden, or aluminum tubes.

The bigger question isn't what he'll say, but rather, what the media will say about it. If he fails to convince Brokaw, Jennings, and Rather, expect the public to give it the thumbs down. For the first time in his life, those media watchers will have raised the bar ever so slightly on what they expect from him. This isn't a harmless little prince doodling with his big toe in the sand, anymore. Rome may soon be burning. Bush learned that you can turn the force of fear against your opponents to great effect. (Ask the scorched, simpering Dems for a comment on that.) But now the fear has been stoked, and Bush is in serious danger of a backdraft.

Who can say? We'll be watching.

posted by Jeff | 1:13 PM |

Yes, yes, I'm back. Please, stop with all the emails and post comments. You're overwhelming blogspot's server.

I see that I'm going to have to work a little harder to earn your love...

posted by Jeff | 12:40 PM |

Friday, January 24, 2003  

Gone for the weekend. Keep an eye on things ...

posted by Jeff | 3:20 PM |

Bloggerville's a'flutter today: you can't swing a dead cat without finding a story about some new White House-related atrocity. I was going to compose a lengthy treatise about the demise of civilization, but that will have to wait until next week. Instead, for the random reader who doesn't happen to be out blogging today, you might find some interest in these stories:

First, the only good news in a bleak landscape. It seems even Americans are getting fed up with our leadership. According to a Times/CBS poll, the numbers continue to slide.

This is good news because, as I've mentioned on this site, the President seems to function like a school yard bully. Which means that, when someone stands up to him, he generally backs off.

However, other signs aren't quite as cheery. Read on...

posted by Jeff | 11:06 AM |

Some good and bad news, this time on the environment. Preference? How about the good: Americans want to protect the environment.

The bad news: it may not matter. According to yet another article, global warming is the real deal, and hundreds of plant and animal species will be affected. Not only that, but sea levels have risen 16 centimeters since 1890, according to 160-year old records discovered in the Royal Society, London.

Thank god the Bush Administration is raising CAFE standards on SUV's!

(Thanks to Genfoods for the links.)

posted by Jeff | 10:56 AM |

In the Times, the fascinating disconnect between the US and its (former?) allies. On the one hand, the White House is absolutely confident Europe will fall in line with whatever the US does in Iraq.

On the other hand, European leaders say they've just about had it with the Bush Administration's sanctimonious certainty.

And while that spat festers, let us not forget the Rumsfeld gaffe, which has made this administration only marginally more popular across Europe than Iraq's. All in all, a helluva week in diplomacy.

posted by Jeff | 10:43 AM |

With the likes of Judge Pickering back on the block and the possible retirement of one or more Supremes, it's heartening to know that the Republicans plan not to use their new power to pack the courts. Sorry, check that. Looks like they will pack the courts. Orrin Hatch has announced that he is going to make good on his threat to get rid of the "blue slip" tradition, wherein senators have the opportunity to block nominees in their own states.

No doubt any Democratic opposition to this longstanding tradition will be met with accusations of playing partisan politics or politicizing the judiciary. (Plays right into the Pickering Maneuver, don't you think?)

posted by Jeff | 10:26 AM |

Nothing stirs the spirit of liberty more than hearing your President is a liar. The Washington Post reports today on the old White House embellishment about the aluminum (aluminium to you Britons) rods that Condi Rice called "only really suited for nuclear weapons programs." Well, turns out that might have been more than an embellishment.

"Iraq imported the same aluminum tubes for rockets in the 1980s. The new tubes it tried to purchase actually bear an inscription that includes the word "rocket," according to one official who examined them."

We must bear in mind that this information was what Bush offered to the UN when he made the US's case against Iraq. And also, that this isn't the first time the white house has "embellished."

posted by Jeff | 10:12 AM |

Thursday, January 23, 2003  


On Interesting Times, host Chris posted a quote from Helen Thomas, refering to Bush: “This is the worst president ever. He is the worst president in all of American history.” (From an article he found here.)

Is she right?

We tend to glorify our own times, so that the greatest (or worst, or biggest, or whatever) always happens in our time. So obviously the President gets extra bonus hate points for being here now. You may recall an article I linked recently that describes this very phenomenon. (It refers to a Zogby poll in which Bush's "greatness" rating slid from 3rd among modern presidents--behind FDR and JFK--to 6th.) I'm no historian, but personally, I'd say Bush has a very good opportunity to be the worst president of all time. I can't agree with Helen Thomas, though--it's too early, and this is definitely a president who manages not to live up to expectation. But I tell you, by gum, the guy's definitely got a shot.

Who do you like? Who's a contender? Reagan? Hoover? Cast your votes now!

posted by Jeff | 1:58 PM |

Sam Smith also thinks Michael Kelly went too far.

posted by Jeff | 12:29 PM |

Ode to Krugman

All you good lefties out there read your Paul Krugman, dontcha? Two helpings a week--Tuesday and Friday--is all you need to keep abreast of the Great Wealth Transfer future generations will read about in their history books. Yesterday Howard Kurtz wrote a fascinating bio about Krugman--a must read. A couple of teasers:

"It's a very uncomfortable thing to question the honesty and motives of your leaders. I'm saying that the men who are controlling our destiny are lying. Not many journalists or many people want to confront them."

"Probably a majority of reporters are registered Democrats or vote Democratic,. But a heavy majority of editors are Republican. The corporations that control most media are Republican. There are operations like Fox News which are unabashedly part of the Republican enterprise and operations like CNN which are carefully evenhanded. The Times is actually -- it's clear the editorial page is mildly liberal and most of the staff must be mildly liberal. But in reporting on issues, most of the time it bends over backwards to find two sides to every story."

A couple of interesting sites are his Princeton homepage, and a fan page that has an archive of all his times articles, as well as other writings and links.

posted by Jeff | 11:10 AM |

Wednesday, January 22, 2003  

EU allies unite against Iraq war

Oops. I guess this'll be a job for that ol' Bush diplomacy. Maybe he should remind France and Germany that they "are irrelevant to our calculation." (see below)

posted by Jeff | 4:41 PM |

Is this arrogance indicative of White House policy?

JED BABBIN: (On the significance of France's concerns about invading Iraq) Well, it's not significant at all. Frankly it's merely a repeat of what the French and the Chinese and the Russians did in 1998 when with Kofi Annan they agreed to basically block the effectiveness of the inspections that were going on at this time. The process of the U.N., the president is right, has a finite amount of time. It would be tremendously ironic to see a nation like France, which has really no other voice in the world other than its vote on the Security Council, to have this sort of an effect and basically deprive the U.N. of legitimacy in the future because that is what they are really approaching if they veto a resolution that we present for military action against Iraq.

and later...

GWEN IFILL: I guess my question is does it matter that [Britain is the US's] only [remaining] staunch ally?

JED BABBIN: Not really. At this point who else really could matter? The others don't have the forces. They do not have the influence, even the economic influence to really try to shape matters. We need to proceed as our interests dictate.

and later still...

JED BABBIN: Well, that certainly would not scuttle the Atlantic alliance. The Atlantic alliance is very well and strong. It exists between London and Washington. The rest simply are irrelevant to our calculation.


posted by Jeff | 1:37 PM |

And mercurial Kelly, has today gone too far. In an article he subtlety titles "Marching with Stalinists," Kelly (in usual apoplexy) asserts:

"The marches in Washington and San Francisco were chiefly sponsored, as was last October's antiwar march in Washington, by a group the Times chose to call in its only passing reference 'the activist group International Answer.'

International ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) is a front group for the communist Workers World Party. The Workers World Party is, literally, a Stalinist organization. It rose out of a split within the old Socialist Workers Party over the Soviet Union's 1956 invasion of Hungary -- the breakaway Workers World Party was all for the invasion. International ANSWER today unquestioningly supports any despotic regime that lays any claim to socialism, or simply to anti-Americanism. It supported the butchers of Beijing after the slaughter of Tiananmen Square. It supports Saddam Hussein and his Baathist torture-state. It supports the last official Stalinist state, North Korea, in the mass starvation of its citizens. It supported Slobodan Milosevic after the massacre at Srebrenica. It supports the mullahs of Iran, and the narco-gangsters of Colombia and the bus-bombers of Hamas."

This isn’t just false, it’s a blatant lie and slanderous. “It supports Saddam Hussein . . . North Korea . . . the mullahs of Iran and the narco-gangsters of Columbia and the bus-bombers of Hamas.” This isn’t rhetorical flourish, it’s not metaphoric whimsy, this is a serious charge. According to Kelly, ANSWER is an umbrella group for terrorism.

But of course if that were the case, ANSWER wouldn’t be organizing marches on Washington; they’d be in Cuba, rotting without representation and charged with terrorism. No, it’s very clear what ANSWER is up to: holding the United States accountable for its actions.

Kelly also failed to mention that ANSWER is supported by hundreds of organizations, including such dangerous radicals as the Pastors for Peace, Jews Against the Occupation, and San Francisco State University.

Kelly’s shtick generally amounts to harmless Bush boosterism. Today’s screed may also be harmless, so obvious is its mendacity. Nevertheless, it wildly exceeds even the most optimistic definition of journalism. Let me be the first to exhort the Post to can this joker. It’s a stain on the newspaper.

posted by Jeff | 9:57 AM |

Mercurial Dowd today with some subtle analysis about class. Notable:

"The Bushes see the world through the prism of class, while denying that class matters. They think as long as they don't act "snotty" or swan around with a lot of fancy possessions, that class is irrelevant.

They make themselves happily oblivious to the difference between thinking you are self-made and being self-made, between liking to clear brush and having to clear brush."


"If you don't acknowledge that being a wealthy white man with the right ancestors blesses you with the desirable sort of inequality, how can you fix the undesirable sort of inequality?"

posted by Jeff | 9:04 AM |

Tuesday, January 21, 2003  


Below, Reilly notes that a Bush assault is ready to go, just as soon as one of those damn terrorists shakes his ass at us (apparently no one's buying the threat posed by Saddam's empty warheads). This is fairly scary talk, when you think that the President might be spoiling for an attack so that he can retaliate. On that note, I've been meaning to make some predictions for the archives for awhile, so here goes:

The Iraq invasion. Oddsmakers have this baby set to pop in March, but I'm going to dissent. I think that there will be no terrorist attack and no "smoking gun" as the March date approaches. Bush, whom we've identified matches the profile of a bully, will not stand up to France, Russia, and Democrats at home. Instead, he'll "redeploy" the 150,000 troops in a shell-game maneuver that will have them home by the fourth of July.

On the likely Democratic candidate for Prez. Lord, let's hope one emerges. How about this: Bush so infuriates his moderate base that John McCain decides to follow Jeffords into defection, but he jumps all the way to the Dems. And, of course, emerges as the leading candidate for prez.

Best picture Oscar. Tough one, and I may change this as the buzz gets moving (or alternately, if this choice isn't nominated), but how about The Hours? It'll make the Academy feel so intellectchall.

Super Bowl. I'll go with the pirates.

posted by Jeff | 4:17 PM |

Certain patterns seem to emerge when you peruse the headlines from different newspapers. An editorial made of headlines. Example:

Bush Opens Way for Counties and States to Claim Wilderness Roads - Policy could allow vehicles into vast areas of wilderness, some in national parks. Critics fear harm by miners, off-roaders and others.

Bush plan would boost big SUVs - Owners of small businesses could immediately deduct entire cost

Conservative Positions by Bush Could Cost Votes From Center

Ongoing Prejudice Holds Nation Back, Bush Says - On King Holiday, White House Chided on Policies

Bush's 'greatness' tested in time of trouble for US

Bush Scolds U.N. Member Nations on Iraq

N. Korea Deems Nuclear Talks Off Limits

posted by Jeff | 2:57 PM |

Follow-up on the peace march numbers. NPR quotes a Boston University professor who estimates the number at 875,000, based on satellite footage. Because of obstructions, he estimates a margin of error at +/-25% (663,000 to 1,087,000). Which isn't anemic at all.

posted by Jeff | 8:56 AM |

Monday, January 20, 2003  

While we’re at it, see how many occasions you can spot self-serving language in the President’s comments to a Virginia church today to commemorate MLK Day:

It is fitting that we honor the life of a great American in a church who derived his inspiration from the church. It is fitting that we honor this great American in a church because, out of the church comes the notion of equality and justice. (Applause.) And even though progress has been made, Pastor -- even though progress has been made, there is more to do. There are still people in our society who hurt. There is still prejudice holding people back. There is still a school system that doesn't elevate every child so they can learn. (Applause.) There is still a need for us to hear the words of Martin Luther King, to make sure the hope of America extends its reach into every neighborhood across this land.

So it's fitting we're here in a church that has got ministries aimed at healing those who hurt, and fighting addiction and promoting love and families. It is fitting we meet here in a church because in this society, we must understand government can help, government can write checks -- but it cannot put hope in people's hearts or a sense of purpose in people's lives.

And so as we remember the dream of Martin Luther King and remember his clear vision for a society that's equal and a society full of justice, this society must remember the power of faith. This government of yours must welcome faith, not discriminate faith, as we deal with the future of this great country.

For those scoring at home, I got 1) faith-based initiatives, 2) opposition to "quotas," 3) compassionate conservatism, 4) veiled props to the Bible-belt boys. And what's this? "Out of the church comes the notion of equality and justice." Theocratic promotion?

posted by Jeff | 6:31 PM |

When does pursuit of the Southern Strategy irrevocably become actual racism? The President is pushing the line. Josh Marshall has some nice analysis today inspired by Bush’s renewed practice of honoring Jefferson Davis. This, hot on the heels of the President’s brief opposing Michigan’s affirmative action policy. (And, obscenely, on the eve of MLK’s birthday.)

So, the scorecard is:

-Speaking at Bob Jones University before the election;
-Smearing John McCain in South Carolina for having a “black” child;
-Hires Condi Rice and Colin Powell;
-Purports support of Latinos by considering granting citizenhood to all illegal Mexican immigrants;
-Nomination of Judge Pickering for appeals court;
-Opposing the Michigan affirmative action policy;
-Renomination of Pickering;
-Honoring Confederate President Jefferson Davis.

Final score: balance tipping toward….

posted by Jeff | 6:26 PM |

Catch phrases

Remember the "Axis of Evil?" Well, the New York Times has an article pointing out that it's nearing the one-year anniversary of the infamous declaration in last year's State of the Union address. The phrase remained a part of the Bush rhetorical toolkit for several months after the first remark, including in an April speech to the Virginia Military Institute, a May speech in Germany, several times in June, and a final time in August in Crawford.

Since then, the President has avoided the phrase.

When the Times questioned Ari Fleischer about the phrase, Fleischer stood by it (which is more than the President seems to be doing).

"Just as Ronald Reagan was accurate in calling the Soviet Union the evil empire, it's important to people inside those three countries who want to be free to know that the United States has not forgotten their cause."

So, what are the odds the President will use it again this year? Fleischer says, "Tune in," but I have a bridge to sell to anyone who thinks the President's going back to that particular catch phrase.

posted by Jeff | 12:04 PM |

More on Poindexter, in an article that doesn't make me feel any safer. For example, this doesn't exactly resolve the criticisms about his penchant for secrecy:

Admiral Poindexter would not comment for this article and has been forbidden to respond to his critics by his superiors at the Defense Department. But he has told a number of people that he believes the attacks on him by civil libertarians are based on a distortion of the way the Total Information Awareness technology would operate.

posted by Jeff | 11:31 AM |

On the peace marches

Does anyone feel like the peace marches Saturday were a bit anemic? (Not that it's easy to tally marchers; reports of the march in Washington vary from 30,000 to half a million. Hmmm.) But even if we estimate a crowd of 100,000 to 200,000, does that seem to indicate strong anti-war support? The West Coast seemed a bit more subversive. The San Francisco rally drew over 100,000, and a rally in my hometown (Portland) managed 20-25k. But how about the heartland? Des Moines (125), Indianapolis (600), Lansing ("several hundred"). There are more people in the average Gap than that.

posted by Jeff | 11:20 AM |

Even non-football fans can appreciate the Pirate Bowl. Arrgh!

posted by Jeff | 10:57 AM |

Saturday, January 18, 2003  

On the Invasion of Iraq
Draft date: September 26, 2002

The drumbeats of war are getting louder, the Bush Administration’s asking to be granted even more control, and everyone seems to accept that an invasion of Iraq is both inevitable and probably a good idea. I dissent. Herewith, for the few who care, an argument against invasion.

Reasons for Invasion
On the side of war, Bush and his boys have offered essentially four reasons to invade. They argue that: 1) Saddam Hussein’s a bad man, 2) Saddam’s repressed his own people, 3) Saddam’s got weapons of mass destruction (WMD), 4) Saddam’s a terrorist and/or terrorist supporter.

Corollary threats have been mentioned, although they haven’t been identified in formal resolutions, either to the UN or congress. They include the sense that Iraq contributes to instability in the Middle East and that any restructuring of that region must begin with Iraq. In his words, “In one place, in one regime, we find all these dangers in their most lethal and aggressive forms [that is, again, in his own words ’plotting further destruction and building new bases for their war against civilization’] —exactly the kind of aggressive threat the United Nations was born to confront.”

That’s pretty much it. Bush has hedged his bets by demanding “action” from the UN—mainly in the form of following through on its pre-existing resolutions against Iraq, though even this may not be enough, for “the purposes of the United States should not be doubted.” The language he submitted to Congress for action against Iraq was so broad it has failed to garner wide support in the Senate. Then, on September 19th, the Administration issued the official US policy for National Security which included the imperialistic assertion of the right of pre-emption giving itself the power to defend:
“. . .the United States, the American people, and our interests at home and abroad by identifying and destroying the threat before it reaches our borders. While the United States will constantly strive to enlist the support of the international community, we will not hesitate to act alone, if necessary, to exercise our right of self-defense by acting preemptively against such terrorists, to prevent them from doing harm against our people and our country.” [Italics added.]
Essentially, the Administration has identified Iraq as a target and gone about convincing everyone that it is dangerous, or failing that, convincing them to just let the Administration handle it anyway.

Strategic Refutation
On the points Bush has provided, we can grant every single one without drawing the same conclusion that invasion is the best way to address them. Rather, one should assert that unilateral invasion would result in catastrophe. While Bush’s case to the UN was as close to surgical in its precision as he’s ever dared go, it left a lot of assumptions hanging in the air. If these assumptions turn out to be faulty, cue the catastrophes. Among the assumptions I question:

Hussein can be killed. We can crush Iraq. We can turn Baghdad into Dresden. But that’s a different thing from killing Hussein. Implicit in the invasion is the assumption that the Iraqi people will join US forces and “liberate Iraq” the way they liberated Afghanistan. Because, without that support, the invading forces will be looking for a specific man. This means house-to-house warfare and a likelihood of success far lower than the likelihood of locating Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan. Will the Iraqis support the invading forces? Not a shred of evidence has been offered to support this. Instead, we have a society twice oppressed—first by their leader, and second by unwanted US intervention which has left the country impoverished for the past dozen years. Even if the invasion is wildly successful and Iraqis join the liberation effort, there’s no guarantee that we’ll get Saddam. If he sneaks out the back door like bin Laden, many will regard the whole operation as a failure. (And, to hide it, like they hid the failure of finding bin Laden, does that mean talk of war with Iran is next?)

Invading Iraq will stabilize the Middle East. In the outcomes Bush identified in his speech to the UN, “regime change” would bring “reforms throughout the Muslim world.” Actually, it’s the UN action that will bring the reforms throughout the Muslim world, but failing that, it’s the US who “will make that stand” (all quotes Bush’s).

Never mind the details, what about the prediction? Invading Afghanistan was a far less controversial move—the Taliban had only been recognized by two other governments (needless to say, they were our allies, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia). Yet that invasion sparked violence in South Asia and Israel, and has subsequently been used to justify aggressive action against “terrorists” by Russia. In fact, there is almost no scenario one can imagine in which an invasion of Iraq does anything but further destabilize the region.

Iraq, which Bush declares is in possession of WDM, will not use them during a US invasion. Err, okay.

World opinion is irrelevant. Admittedly, this is a more subtle threat than Bush should be expected to understand. Invading Iraq without a world mandate (Tony Blair alone does not count) would essentially turn the US into a rogue nation. While world opinion would not translate into any kind of overt action, it is clear that continued US “interventions” are dependent on soft support, at a minimum. Wave bye-bye to all that, particularly in Muslim countries.

Legal Refutation
This argument is only relevant in the absence of world support—which is, fortunately, the current situation. George W. Bush has very clearly made the argument that the US should move away from international cooperation and adopt a strategy of pre-emption and unilateralism.

In order to do this, the Bush Administration has tried to create some kind of legal claim for its unilateralist agenda. It started by retrofitting its policy with a couple of minimum criteria. The context of 9/11 gave them the first: terrorism. What actions qualify as “terrorism” are not defined; it seems that a simple US designation is adequate. Second, there must be the threat of harm—and this one is easy to meet because not just to the US or its citizens qualifies as a threat, but even “our interests.” This is a a wholly bogus extension of the premise of “imminent attack,” which according to international law is a justification for pre-emptive strike.

But in the case of Iraq, there wasn’t until yesterday evening [September 25] a shred of evidence that any of Iraq’s activities—tyrannical though they might be—could be considered to present a threat to the US or its interests. They might be called terrorism, but so far, Hussein had only employed them against his own people. No one has ever made the connection between Iraq and global terrorism. Fortunately for the Bush team, however, one of those “detainees” in Cuba came forward last night with “clear testimony” that there’s a link between Iraq and al-Qaeda. Not that this is verifiable in any way, as those “detainees” haven’t been afforded their constitutional rights.

(There’s a fascinating article in the September Harper’s that traces the thread of unilateralist thought within the Bush Administration back to Bush I through the writings and policy statements of Cheney, Powell, and Wolfowitz. As it happens, the Nation Security Strategy announced by the President last week didn’t arise from 9/11—quite the opposite. The 9/11 attacks finally enabled a policy that had been in development for at least ten years. Well, suffice it to say that it also poses some issues regarding international law.)

So it is that you make your case, then create the evidence. It seems to work in American opinion polls, but it doesn’t represent legal practice.

Moral Refutation
No one has mentioned that attacking a sovereign nation—however corrupt the leader—leads to many deaths. Dubya has mentioned frequently his compassion for the Iraqi people. He cites it as one of his principal motives for wishing to attack—“Liberty for the Iraqi people is a great moral cause and a great strategic goal.” One even imagines that he’s sincere.

But there’s a contradiction here. The very premise of invading Iraq is the threat it poses to innocents. History has shown that Americans aren’t in the business of ensuring the liberty of foreign citizens until the safety of its own are at risk. No, Bush wishes to attack Iraq to protect American lives. In prioritizing invasion above non-militaristic approaches, he’s made a clear distinction: American lives are more important than Iraqi lives. Most US citizens would agree with him, but the rub is that Americans aren’t at risk. For the Iraqis it’s damned by the hand of Hussein or damned by the hand of Bush—does anyone think they find Bush’s platitudes just compensation for their lives?

This point is the one that has been well-made by a number of folks, so I’ll go into it only briefly. Sixty percent of Iraq is comprised of Shi’ites who have never held power in the country. Kurds comprise another 19%, and have, of course, never held power. The ruling Baath Party represents a Sunni minority of just 17% of the population. Hussein’s regime gained and maintains control through intense violence, which has left the country seething. If the warlords of Afghanistan are proving more difficult to manage than the American military predicted, how will the US or even the UN manage a post-Hussein Iraq? It is guaranteed to be a mess.

Unintended Consequences
Bush’s most obvious quality is his single-mindedness, his aggressive dismissal of complexity. Probably it is what appeals most to people now, his unequivocal pursuit of baddies. But also, it is what led to all of the fires that erupted after the invasion of Afghanistan: the inflammations in Israel, South Asia, and the pervasive suspicion of the US that increased dramatically in the Middle East and Europe. And that was following a war no one disputed.

If the US invades Iraq—either with or without world support—there will arise situations we don’t currently envision. An example is Pooty-Poot and his delight over the Bush doctrine: if invading “terrorist” aggressors is both moral and sound geopolitics, this whole pre-emption deal might be just what the doctor ordered in Georgia. That is a known by-product, but many others will emerge. Obvious other issues, such as the place Baghdad holds in the Muslim world, the Israeli conflict, tensions in Saudi Arabia, the Musharraf government’s stability, effects on terrorist support—all these Bush has ignored.

How to Deal With Iraq
Finally, the issue of Iraq remains. Hearing these protests, the Bush Administration has asked what a better solution is. (There are some questions here—why did the Iraq issue arise at this moment and what’s the urgency?; is Saddam Hussein substantively worse than, say, Kim Jong Il?; what is the formal policy on other baddie regimes [after Iraq, is it N. Korea, then Iran, then . . . ]?; what about the war on terror?; what about the thin-and-wide strategy of too many fronts?; what about creating a perpetual wartime drain on the economy?; and so on and so on.) But let’s leave them aside for now. Let’s agree that Iraq is a legitimate problem.

So, even if we accept that Iraq is actively developing WDM, we have to ask two other questions first: 1) do these weapons represent an immediate risk to the globe? and 2) if so, is it more of a risk than the one non-affiliated terrorists like al-Qaeda pose? There is great doubt about the first question. Unlike many more erratic dictators, Hussein’s threats are relatively predictable, and to this point always nationalistic and regional. Unlike more overtly terroristic regimes in the region, Hussein has attempted to build a greater Iraqi state, and until the war with Bush Sr., was an American ally. And despite attempts to demonize Hussein, not a single shred of credible evidence links him to world terrorism.

(Ironically enough, Hussein is also one of the least religious of the Arab dictators. While it is Iraqis are clearly oppressed, they do not suffer under the types of repression found in, say, Saudi Arabia—a close American ally. Until sanctions-related poverty struck the home capital, Baghdad was among the most cosmopolitan of the Arab cities. Even today, Hussein is more likely to wear a western suit than the military fatigues in which he is most commonly depicted.)

As to the second question, there is also great doubt. In the scenarios Bush describes, there are only vague references to the horrors that might ensue. Even with stores of WDM, Iraq lacks ICBMs and in a worst case scenario would only attack its neighbors. One might ask the question about why he would do this. While barely managing to keep the US outside his borders for the past ten years, Hussein knows that deploying WDM would definitely ensure invasion. It seems far more likely that he wishes to secure WDM to prevent an American invasion. This is, of course, a threat to the US’s express wish to hold unilateral control over the world.

So finally, the question: what should we do with the existing threat of Saddam Hussein? Inspections. Bush has tried to make a lot of hay about how the inspections ended in order to demonstrate their faults. But the fact is that the inspections were quite successful in locating not only existing stores of WDM, but the avenues through which they were being developed. Bush has stirred the pot enough at this point that the world will gladly line up behind hardline inspections. Any thought of invasion prior to this effort is absurd.

Furthermore, this is an opportunity for the United States to take a genuine leadership role in crafting policy for dealing with international conflict. Paying lip service to democracy on the one hand while on the other supporting dictators and reserving the right to act unilaterally, undemocratically, and forcefully naturally lead to a less stabilized world. That the US has a huge advantage in the world right now makes it the natural leader. It has two choices—leading toward a system of international law or playing the old game of might is right. Whatever course we choose, the world will follow. Thus it is that following the UN’s lead in Iraq is absolutely critical to setting the tone in international politics.

Final Notes
I think we have ample evidence to suspect Bush’s motives. As with all his other policies, he’s developed this one in a vacuum, constantly seeking to hide evidence, obscure motives, and change the discussion when any serious scrutiny is applied. While a pre-election wag-the-dog scenario might be a portion of this strategy, my suspicion is there’s something more fundamental here.

The definition for “tyranny” is variable. Cambridge describes it as “government by a ruler or small group of people who have unlimited power over the people in their country or state and use it unfairly and cruelly.” American Heritage’s first definition is simply “A government in which a single ruler is vested with absolute power.” Webster’s is more detailed, describing “a country governed by an absolute ruler; hence, arbitrary or despotic exercise of power; exercise of power over subjects and others with a rigor not authorized by law or justice, or not requisite for the purposes of government.”

All of these definitions cut very close to the direction George W. Bush has taken his administration. In my view, it is only the health of the democratic system—such as it remains—that has prevented him from taking full tyrannical power. Time and again his administration has demonstrated the definitional requisites. John Ashcroft would like to hold people indefinitely, without representation and without charge; he would then like to try them privately, by the government. He would like to monitor library records, church attendance, and even private homes in a dragnet strategy to locate “criminals” (who then enter indefinite, unrepresented confinement). The President has asserted he has the power to declare war without Congressional approval, that he may act unilaterally and at his own discretion to declare unprovoked war on those states he regards “threatening.” Over and over the Administration demonstrates it seeks absolute power—power it may use unfairly and arbitrarily, and certainly “with a rigor not authorized by law or justice.”

It is axiomatic that tyranny emerges to resist tyranny or the appearance of tyranny. President Bush, exercising what he imagines is “moral clarity,” asks to be the sole and final arbiter over the actions of citizens of this nation and the actions of governments of foreign states. Reasonable people and optimists imagine his motivation is democratic, that he wishes freedom and liberty for all people. It may be. But we should not create law based on the assumed motivations of our leaders, and we should never allow power to collect in the hands of a single man or administration.

The unilateral invasion of Iraq would the most obvious abuse of democratic power in a newly-emerging global democracy. Furthermore, it would distract a nation from the sweeping power the President and his administration are seeking at home. Bush has already used circumstances to justify cynical political moves—after his abysmal tax cut passed and the economy started tanking, Bush bragged he’d hit the trifecta: war (Afghanistan), national emergency (terrorism) and recession bailed him out. The Administration’s desire to invade Iraq is no less cynical, and the upside is far, far greater. On balance, the reasons to invade Iraq are few and debatable, the gains small, and the cost huge; the reasons to refrain many and indisputable, the gains large, and the cost nothing. It’s not even close.

posted by Jeff | 11:11 AM |

Friday, January 17, 2003  

Oregonians, I think I've figured out the answer to all our problems.

posted by Jeff | 3:41 PM |

Eye on America

It's hard to crack a newspaper without hearing about some new sweeping proposal by some branch of the federal government to peek into citizens' business. Today it's news about John Poindexter's ultra-creepy Information Awareness Office (which, appropos of nothing, has dropped the ultra-ultra creepy symbol of an eye watching the globe).

Add to that the secrecy of the President and Vice President, and John Ashcroft's bizarre policies (TIPS, remember that one?) and obfuscations, and it's not too hard to think that our government doesn't exactly trust us anymore.

Here's an idea: govern with generosity. The post-cold-war world is still new to us, and it wasn't that long ago that planes fell from the sky, so it's understandable we're a little jumpy. But in the face of adversity, people either pull together or descend into chaos. During the dark days of WWII, the Greatest Generation became the greatest when they pulled together. People took comfort by acting generously--individually and as communities.

So far, the President has asked nothing of the country, which robs us of an opportunity for community building. All these reports of snooping and detentions give rise to the worst impulses within us. As a good lefty, my suspicions of conservatives runs high--I tend to scan the paper for evidence that Republicans are up to no good (and lemme tell you, having a blog doesn't help that). But I think that's a diservice to the best impulses that all elected officials call upon when they make decisions. We all need to stand down on our distrust.

And let's lay off the snooping.

posted by Jeff | 3:04 PM |

Thursday, January 16, 2003  

News Roundup

That cynical, conspiratorial part of my brain is beginning to think that the Bush Administration and the GOP plan their initiatives in clumps, so that a good many get lost in the daily news cycle. But that's reading too much into it, isn't it? Anyway, the news of the day:

The President is seeking to subvert UN weapons inspections. Actually, he just wants to shut them up: fearing that they won't find any evidence of WMD, he want to stop the inspectors from issuing a March 27 report on their discoveries. Which bring to mind a couple thoughts. Didn't the President assert he had good evidence of Iraqi WDM? If so, why is he so sure the inspectors won't find it. And also, I have to say that hearing this report--the Bush Administration behaving secretively and trying to cover up information--I was shocked. The Bush Administration cover something up?

In news of the Supreme Court, copyrights have been extended. Everything about this ruling seems spot-on, doesn't it? I mean, certainly it seems like the right thing to do to extend copyright protection to intellectual property so that an author's (or songwriter's or corporate giant's) great-grandchildren can continue to be cared for. And the court's rationale--to defer to Congress--is also heartening. I think it might be a new era of generosity among the branches of government--"Nah, hell, why don't you guys handle this one. . ."

The LA Times is reporting that Senate Republicans are preparing a little magic trick to jam ANWR drilling through. Instead of keeping it as a provision of the energy bill (which failed last year), they're going to put it on the budget bill, which is not subject to a fillibuster and which only needs 50 votes (plus Cheney) to pass. ANWR open sesame!

A federal court judge criticizes a government request to deny Jose Padilla legal representation. And this just in, US AG John Ashcroft endorses effort to change pledge of allegiance's final phrase. New text: with liberty and justice at the discretion of the CIA.

Let's see, Reagan cut taxes, got massive deficits. Bush cut taxes and ... (From an article in the LA Times that federal deficits are blossoming.)

White House Budget Director Mitchell E. Daniels Jr. said in a speech Wednesday that the Bush administration expects to run deficits of 2% to 3% of the gross domestic product in the next few years, substantially more than the deficit the government ran in the last fiscal year.

White House economists briefly posted on the White House Web site an analysis that showed the plan would add $33 billion to the deficit this fiscal year, $113 billion next fiscal year and $359 billion over the five years from 2003 to 2007. But they quickly removed the document, saying it needed to be reworked.

So much news, so little time to stew in your own bile.

posted by Jeff | 9:42 AM |

Wednesday, January 15, 2003  

Race, States' Rights, and the Politicization of the Judiciary

Surprise, the President is against "quotas". He made a speech this afternoon (and submitted a brief?), coming out against Michigan's policy that allows race to be considered for college admittance. While it's a major story, his view isn't particularly revolutionary. It hit all the usual notes:

"I strongly support diversity of all kinds, including racial diversity, in higher education, but the method used by the University of Michigan to achieve this important goal is fundamentally flawed. At their core, the Michigan policies amount to a quota system that unfairly rewards or penalizes prospective students based solely on their race."

What's interesting to me isn't his position particularly (in fact, had he gone the other way, that wouldn't have surprised, either). Rather, it's that he chose to issue this public statement, which is obviously intended to influence the judges. According to the Washington Post article about the announcement, it was specifically aimed at giving the swing vote, Justice O'Connor, cover when she votes.

Three thoughts on this. First, by making the announcement public, Bush makes it his own political issue. Selecting the "anti-quota" argument lines up with the wink-wink nod-nod language of the Southern Strategy. Looking at two constituencies--Hispanics and segregationist southerners--Bush decided there was political advantage in staking out territory. Time will tell.

He also signaled the Supremes about which way he wanted this thing to go, which politicized the decision. The politicizing of the judiciary isn't new and it certainly isn't solely a conservative strategy. And yet most Americans would like to think that, as a matter of law, there is some greater guide than politics in the Michigan decision. Whatever the outcome, we have yet another brick off the wall separating the judiciary from politics.

Finally, race. Potentially lost in all this is the actual issue at hand--whether the University of Michigan has the right to consider race in admissions. Race has become a political scalpel, used to carve up constituencies. I think Americans would also like to see decisions like this lead toward something more democratic, more fair. By removing that central goal and replacing it with political advantage, the country is robbed of the chance to hear a genuine discussion and participate in that process.

[Addendum] Ah yes, he might also have defered, citing Michigan's right to determine this kind law.

posted by Jeff | 4:50 PM |

The Bully

You know the score--the big baddy comes around the playground, slams you up against the wall, and shakes you down. So you give him your lunch money. It's a pain in the ass, but what are you going to do? Then one day a new kid comes to class. Kind of a skinny little kid. But when the bully tries to slam him against the wall, the new kid pops the bully in the nose. You figure that's the end of the new kid for sure, but a funny thing happens--the bully takes one look at his bloody nose and let's him go.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but the President thought he was the big, bad old bully when he drafted that national security policy about pre-emption. It was tantamount to slamming Saddam Hussein against the wall. So when Kim Jong Ill came a'calling with nukes, Bush tried (after the usual administration confusion had been cleared up) the diplomatic slam:

"People say, 'Well, are you willing to talk to North Korea?' Of course we are. But what this nation won't do is be blackmailed. And what this nation will do is use this as an opportunity to bring the Chinese and the Russians and the South Koreans and the Japanese to the table to solve this problem peacefully."

But the new kid didn't really go for it. As the AP is reporting:

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- North Korea rejected as "pie in the sky" U.S. offers of talks and possible aid in exchange for abandoning its nuclear ambitions, accusing Washington on Wednesday of staging a "deceptive drama" to mislead world opinion.

Keeping up a stream of anti-American invective - even as it agreed to more high-level meetings with South Korea next week - Pyongyang declared it would accept no U.S. offer of dialogue with conditions attached.

Washington's "loudmouthed supply of energy and food aid are like a pie in the sky, as they are possible only after the DPRK is totally disarmed."


posted by Jeff | 4:09 PM |

You think maybe they're on to him?

A CNN poll published today:

- Approval rating at 58%, down 5% from last week

- 53% think he's handling world affairs well, down 7% from last week

- Only 33% would "definitely" vote for Bush now

posted by Jeff | 12:26 PM |

Class war part two

Yesterday Bush fired another salvo in his class war. This time he took aim on those greedy welfare moms who continue to put such a burden on the federal budget. His proposal is similar to last year's House-passed version--which of course died when it got to the Senate. It came wrapped up--as all the President's initiatives do--as a wet, warm kiss to the working poor: "Behind these statistics are great personal achievements. Adversity has been overcome and lives have changed forever. I met people all around our country who can share their stories of hard work and fighting odds that have been stacked against them. Moms and dads who are -- battled addiction and have overcome addiction. Folks who have had trouble holding a job and found out that they could and realized their dreams."

Of course, it's tough love. Under the plan, welfare recipients would have to work 40 hours a week (making it unclear why they wouldn't be called "workers"), 16 of which could be devoted to job training. This is up from 30 hours under current law. And he won't provide any extra money to the states to help workers accomplish it, either. Nor will he help the "welfare recipients" with additional money for childcare.

Which is as it should be, he'd no doubt point out. After all, this is a man who worked his way up from his hardscrabble, west-Texas roots to become President of the United States. You can't feel good about accomplishing anything unless you've earned it--really earned it. It would be a disservice to those poor people to do anything but expect the most while providing the least. Almost offensive.

Bush then went on to clarify his tax cut proposal, noting, "For those who enjoy a life of privilege, it would also be offensive to ask them to deprive themselves of their Beluga caviar (the overfishing of which is an environmental lie) and Ford Excursions. They wouldn't really know how to manage, and this could cause them to make rash decisions. Decisions that might adversely affect the robust recovery the US economy currently enjoys. And that would, of course, also be a disservice to those very welfare recipients."

(All right, he didn't really say that.)

posted by Jeff | 11:55 AM |

Tuesday, January 14, 2003  

What’s wrong with this picture?

A Times editorial chastises the Republicans today:

“In a vivid bit of leadership payback, Representative Christopher Shays, the Connecticut Republican, has been punished for his role as champion of last year's campaign finance reform bill. Mr. Shays had infuriated his party leaders by working with Democrats to foil Republican attempts at bottling up the bill. Now these same leaders have denied him the chairmanship of the House Government Reform Committee, a high-profile post for which his ranking seniority and legislative talents fully qualify him.”

What’s wrong with this? If you’re a Dem (or, God forbid, an actual liberal), it’s that your party doesn’t do the same. Whereas Shays is reasonably defended here as voting his conscience, what’s the excuse for Democrats who rolled over in votes for the first Bush tax cut, the farm bill, or granting the President unilateral power to invade Iraq? In general, I’m ambivilent about party politics, but the Dems could certainly use a hammer right about now.

posted by Jeff | 4:46 PM |

Tax Cuts and the Economy

The Bush administration has adopted a two-prong approach when the question of the states’ budgetary woes arises: 1) the new tax cut will actually benefit the states (if not immediately, then at least in the long run) and 2) the states are to blame for their own mismanagement. These are, as usual, as inaccurate as they are misleading.

(The benefit would only occur in the event that the economy recovers. The figures the President uses are, like the figures he’s been using since he was a candidate, overly optimistic. And blaming the states is a little hard when they used those same, overly optimistic figures given to them by the administration when they crafted their budgets.)

But even following the Administration down those rabbit holes is to miss the bigger picture: with the states in such crisis, the economy itself is dangerously jeopardized. According to the National Governors Association, 41 states collected less revenue last year than expected; of these, 16 actually experienced negative growth. An article in today’s NY Times reports that this year shortfalls are “estimated at $45 billion and a projected gap next year of $60 billion to $85 billion — deficits of 5, 12, even 20 percent of the budget or more in some states.”

I’ve spent some time this morning trying to track down the statistic (failing, obviously, or I’d just quote it) of the percentage of the economy that depends on the states. It’s large. It’s exactly the reason the US bailed out South Korea and Mexico. And yet, to address this potential disaster, the President offers almost no aid to the states and instead proffers a tax cut for the wealthy that will actually cost the states money.

The administration’s only response? Ridicule. Now that’s leadership.

posted by Jeff | 11:09 AM |

A shout out to T.M. (I'll refrain from outing you), self described cranky righty and host of Just One Minute: you've just sent the first missive Notes has ever received. Like a proud deli owner, mounting his first dollar on the wall behind the cash register, allow me:
| "Emma";
| Hey, front page of the NY Times!
| Link
| I'm justa cranky righty, so I'm sure I will
| annoy you from time to time, but welcome
| aboard.
| Regards,
| T___ M______
| The MinuteMan


Of course, the "you" who's made the front page of the Times is Emma Goldman the actual. Still, front page of the Times is pretty good for a broad who's been dead 62 years.

posted by Jeff | 9:55 AM |

Monday, January 13, 2003  

President Bush has named Mark W. Everson to head the IRS. Keeping in mind his propensity to put foxes in henhouses, I dug around to see what I could find on Mr. Everson.

Currently the controller at the OMB, Everson is (surprise!) both a Reagan alum and former corporate exec. More details, from the Chief Financial Officers Council (part of the OMB):

Prior to joining the Bush Administration in August 2001, Mr. Everson served as Group Vice President – Finance of SC International Services, Inc., a $2.2 billion privately owned, Dallas based, food services company with leading market positions in both airline catering and home meal solutions. For ten years, from 1988 until 1998, Mr. Everson was an executive with the Pechiney Group, one of France’s largest industrial groups. While with Pechiney, he held financial and operating positions in Chicago, Illinois; Manisa, Turkey; Marion, Indiana; and finally at the group’s headquarters in Paris, France. While in Paris, he served as Senior Vice President – Control, and was the only non-Frenchman to direct a corporate function (budgeting, management reporting, and preparation of the multi-year plan) at Pechiney.

Mr. Everson served in the Reagan Administration from 1982 until 1988. For three years, he was at the U.S. Information Agency, the public diplomacy arm of the government. In 1985, he moved to the Department of Justice where he served as Special Assistant to Attorney General Edwin Meese III. He was subsequently Executive Associate Commissioner and then Deputy Commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service. While at INS, he oversaw implementation of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, landmark legislation providing for sanctions against employers hiring undocumented aliens and granting amnesty to millions of qualifying illegal aliens.

Interesting fact from the bio: after leaving business school, he began his career at Arthur Anderson.

posted by Jeff | 12:00 PM |

Outside the east windows of second story buildings across Portland (on clear days), sleepy webfeet sip java and gaze at our own little Mount Fuji. We call it Mount Hood. Mountain climbers call it "easy." Thus thousands of weekend enthusiasts trudge up our gorgeous 11,237-foot mountain each year. I believe it's the most-climbed mountain in America.

But it ain't all that easy to climb. Yet again the mountain has made national news because a party of boneheads--ah, mountaineers--got trapped at the 11,000-foot point in a blizzard. And then the predictable: a cell phone call which begat 50--50!--rescuers who had to climb up the mountain in a blizzard that was dropping an inch an hour. Fortunately, all was well.

It begs the question, however: why rescue the boneheads? According to the National Parks Service, the best time to hike Hood is May or June. This is America, so I say hike to your heart's content. But, when you find yourself at the top of a mountain in the middle of winter in a blizzard, you're on your own. You have revoked your right to force a (badly in-debt) state to spend tens of thousands of dollars and risk 50 lives to save your sorry butt.

posted by Jeff | 11:39 AM |

Sunday, January 12, 2003  

This just in: SUV owners shallow, lack empathy.

posted by Jeff | 6:35 PM |

Let's have a war
A nice article in the Sunday Times about class war and taxes. The article goes all the way back to TR, who as the article notes, said: "I do not like the social conditions" created by an overclass. Indeed, income taxes weren't initially envisioned as punishment for the rich, but in fact to avert class warfare. Good stuff. I recommend giving it a look.

We don't seem to be on the brink of class warfare in 2003. Despite dire warnings from the front lines that the working poor are working harder and harder for less, there seems to be little mobilization against the Bush giveaways. There are starting to be signs that that's changing, however.

Out here on the West Coast, where subversion is less subversive, we may have reached a tipping point. Two articles in today's Oregonian (a middle-right newspaper) outline the failure of conservative policies, beginning in 1990, when the first of the anti-tax initiatives strangled lawmakers's choices. (Front page article on the history of taxes in Oregon; the analysis by Op-Ed writer David Sarasohn isn't on the web yet--link to come.) The situation is bad enough that even the Times has taken notice of the effect on schools--Oregon now has the shortest school year in the nation (either 165 or 156 days, depending on revenues). If the state doesn't pass a special referendum later this month, a variety of services--from drug treatment and elder services to corrections--will get cut. And once Johnny out of school, sharing cigs with Nick the released con, Suburban Soccer Mom may quit voting to cut taxes.

So Dubya doesn't want a war? I wouldn't either, if I were in his Tony Lamas--but trying to shame the hungry and tired may not be enough this time. I say (cue Fear) let's have a war!

posted by Jeff | 4:04 PM |

Saturday, January 11, 2003  

Obscure reference for the author:

"Talk not to me of blasphemy, man; I'd strike the sun if it insulted me." < Moby Dick >

posted by Jeff | 10:40 PM |

Well. At least the posting part is easy. Type, two clicks, and you're up. Fiddling with the rest of it--links, style, code--that's the booger. I'm still working to get links to a few background pieces up, but this is a good start. It feels good to be a part of community. Let the revolution continue . . .

posted by Jeff | 10:37 PM |

Identify the lie

"The fact is that 54 million Americans own stocks that pay dividends. Moreover, 45 percent of all dividend recipients make under $50,000 a year."

Dick Cheney (from the Times)

posted by Jeff | 8:39 PM |

Friday, January 10, 2003  

The Pickering Maneuver
One knew Bush would continue to nominate staunch conservatives, but one may wonder: why Pickering of all judges?

There are two little reasons and one big reason, and none have anything to do with Charles Pickering, who seems destined not to sit on a federal appeals court. The smaller reasons are more evident: The Southern Strategy, obviously. More importantly, Bush is testing the Democrats, pushing to see how hard they’ll push back. If he’s lucky, he’ll also get to see inside their playbook—not bad for a nonstarter like this.

But the really big reason is something any pool hustler would immediately spot: this isn’t about the federal appeals court, it’s about the Supreme Court. Like the pool hustler, Bush is throwing a win to the Dems. It will be a costly one. Words like “political”, “obviously partisan”, and “Bork” will be invoked. Bush will squal like a mashed cat and fight to the end. He’ll whine and snipe for months afterward, keeping the incident fresh in everyone’s mind. Then, when the William Rehnquist announces his retirement this summer, Bush will howl again. He’ll make sure that the news cycles cover his version of events: the partisanship of the Democrats over judicial nominations.

Then, perhaps ten days or two weeks later, he’ll nominate a surprisingly conservative choice to fill the Supreme Court vacancy. And challenge the Democrats to block the nominee.

posted by Jeff | 9:59 PM |

Testing the blog.

posted by Jeff | 9:51 PM |
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