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Consider:

"It is better to be drunk with loss and to beat the ground, than to let the deeper things gradually escape."

- I. Compton-Burnett, letter to Francis King (1969)

"Cynical realism – it is the intelligent man’s best excuse for doing nothing in an intolerable situation."

- Aldous Huxley, "Time Must Have a Stop"







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Friday, 30 January 2004

Topic: In these times...

At the end of an odd week one wonders if this age will produce another Jonathan Swift - or NEWS YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED, OR WISH YOU HAD MISSED

As the week ends some things have been bothering me. My friend in Paris, Ric, tells me I'm getting a bit angry. Maybe so. I suspect my tone is changing. Do I need to toss a nod to the other side? No. Enough is enough. Angry will do.

As I mentioned previously, my graduate work was on the satires of Jonathan Swift. His attitude must have rubbed off on me. But he was "ironically reasonable" more than he was angry - or the irony masked the deep anger.

Well, being ironically reasonable, and not directly angry, was fine for Swift. He dealt with the dumb-as-a-post Queen Anne. And with Robert Walpole, not a nice man, but one with a veneer of civility, however thin.

The current crew in power? They do not deserve the irony any longer. Bah. And humbug.

Swift got pissed at the fact children were starving in Ireland, and with the Wood's Coinage issue. Were Swift alive today?

He'd look at David Kay's testimony to congress on the problem with there being no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. That has a generated lot of coverage and comment. The Kay fellow is saying there be no weapons of mass destruction (oops, my bad) and poor, innocent Bush was misled by our intelligence folks - Tenet at the CIA and the like - and got suckered because he was so trusting. It's not his fault! The poor guy trusted the wrong people.

This is absolute bullshit.

Here is an extensive chronology of how the Bush Administration repeatedly and deliberately refused to listen to intelligence agencies that SAID its case for war was weak - see this - all sources available publicly. They told him. It's on record.

Ah, but Bush doesn't read much. He's proud of that.

So he probably really didn't know they were telling him a lot of the information ranged from questionable to flatly bogus. Yeah, someone might have told him, of course.

Oh well.

They'd have long ago impeached Clinton seven times over for this kind of crap.

Bush gets a pass because the common man likes him - he's inarticulate and mean-spirited and a bully. The electorate loves that - he's the living embodiment of Bart Simpson and Nelson Muntz blended together, but you have to watch the Simpsons to get that reference. The guy alternates between the diplomatic/political equivalent of saying "Eat my shorts!" and "Ha, Ha." A limited range of discourse....

Or as Paul Krugman put in the New York Times Friday:
Surely even supporters of the Iraq war must be dismayed by the administration's reaction to David Kay's recent statements. Iraq, he now admits, didn't have W.M.D., or even active programs to produce such weapons. Those much-ridiculed U.N. inspectors were right. (But Hans Blix appears to have gone down the memory hole. On Tuesday Mr. Bush declared that the war was justified -- under U.N. Resolution 1441, no less -- because Saddam "did not let us in.")

So where are the apologies? Where are the resignations? Where is the investigation of this intelligence debacle? All we have is bluster from Dick Cheney, evasive W.M.D.-related-program-activity language from Mr. Bush -- and a determined effort to prevent an independent inquiry.

True, Mr. Kay still claims that this was a pure intelligence failure. I don't buy it: the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace has issued a damning report on how the threat from Iraq was hyped, and former officials warned of politicized intelligence during the war buildup. (Yes, the Hutton report gave Tony Blair a clean bill of health, but many people -- including a majority of the British public, according to polls -- regard that report as a whitewash.)

In any case, the point is that a grave mistake was made, and America's credibility has been badly damaged - and nobody is being held accountable. But that's standard operating procedure. As far as I can tell, nobody in the Bush administration has ever paid a price for being wrong. Instead, people are severely punished for telling inconvenient truths. And administration officials have consistently sought to freeze out, undermine or intimidate anyone who might try to check up on their performance.
Huh? Would these guys really "freeze out, undermine or intimidate" folks who disagree. Oh yeah, Joe Wilson's wife and all that.

And of course the commission investigating what might have gone wrong that allowed the September 11 attacks to happen has asked for two more months to wrap up their work. The administration is vigorously opposing that. Nothing to see here folks, move on, move on.... No one to blame, really.

Investigate how we got the weapons in Iraq thing all wrong? The administration says that's not really necessary. We we just mistaken - duped by the CIA and those spy folks. Nothing to see here folks, move on, move on....

Shall we be angry then, or ironic?

____

And then there is another item with which Swift would have fun, another oops-not-quite-so...

Medicare Drug Benefit Plan to Far Exceed Cost Estimate
The revised $534-billion price tag is expected to renew debate over the landmark legislation.
Vicki Kemper, The Los Angeles Times, January 30, 2004
WASHINGTON - The Medicare overhaul that gave a prescription drug benefit to seniors will cost at least $134 billion more than the $400-billion price tag President Bush and Congress agreed to last year, administration officials and congressional aides said Thursday.

The officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the revised estimate was the product of calculations completed after Bush signed the measure into law last month.

Liberals and conservatives who opposed the bill during debates in Congress are likely to renew their arguments in light of the higher cost.

Conservatives said that the legislation, even at $400 billion over 10 years, was too expensive in an era of rising deficits.

Liberals said the bill gave too much money to private corporations, in part because of a provision for payments to insurance companies to encourage them to offer affordable policies to seniors.

The bill passed the Senate largely along party lines.
No kidding.

Oops, fooled again.

____

And Swift would get this:

Pentagon seeks big hike for missile defense in $401 billion budget request
Pauline Jelinek, ASSOCIATED PRESS, 4:36 p.m. January 30, 2004
WASHINGTON - The Bush administration is seeking a big increase in spending for missile defense next year, setting the program on course to have a bare-bones system in place by the end of this year and up to 30 interceptors on land and at sea by the end of 2005.

The money is part of a proposed $401.7 billion Pentagon budget that doesn't include money for ongoing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Officials last year went back to Congress for $87 billion beyond their budget to fund those missions, and documents obtained by The Associated Press show they expect to have to ask for money beyond this new budget as well.

The documents say they don't expect to do that until calendar year 2005, after November's presidential election.
The only problem is it doesn't work. Not one test has been successful.

Build it anyway? See Gulliver's Travels, Book Three.

____

And Dean Swift was always working to shame the powers that be into doing something for the poor and demoralized and exploited folks. So what would he say to this?

Record Number to Run Out of Unemployment Benefits
Kirstin Downey, The Washington Post, Friday, January 30, 2004; Page A05
A record-high 375,000 jobless workers will exhaust their unemployment insurance this month and an estimated 2 million workers will find themselves in the same predicament during the first half of the year, according to an analysis of Labor Department statistics by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

The report from the center, a liberal research and policy group, found that in the first six months of the year, about 5,800 jobless workers in the District of Columbia, 20,200 in Maryland and 29,600 in Virginia will run out of unemployment benefits unless they find new jobs or get additional government help.

The jobless recovery has become an issue in this presidential election year, and the report shows the jobless benefits will run out for large numbers of workers in several key states, including Michigan, Pennsylvania, Indiana, North Carolina and South Carolina.

While the unemployment rate dropped to 5.7 percent in December, down from 6.3 percent in June, businesses added only 1,000 jobs that month. The country has lost more than 2.8 million manufacturing jobs in a steady erosion over the past 41 months.

Congress voted in 2002 to give unemployed workers an additional 13 weeks of benefits and extended the program twice. But it expired just before Christmas. Congressional Republicans said another extension wasn't necessary because the economy was gaining strength and job growth was near at hand.
Yeah, so nearly three million folks are supposed to feel good that something or other is near at hand.

Hey, it isn't near at hand. Wake up.

And can this all be fixed?

Republicans fight Bush budget plan
Lawmakers say Bush's plan will mean painful cuts and will barely dent the deficit.
Reuters, January 29, 2004: 3:44 PM EST
WASHINGTON - President Bush's plans to sharply limit some federal spending next year will barely dent the deficit but could mean painful cuts in programs ranging from veterans' health to medical research, Republican lawmakers who oversee the spending process warned Thursday.

Bush will send his fiscal 2005 budget to Congress Monday. In it, he will propose limiting the growth in federal discretionary spending outside of defense and homeland security to about 0.5 percent - far less than the rate of inflation.
Oh yeah, lower taxes mean lower revenues, and not much money for keeping things going as they were.

___

Then what would a good satirist do with this from Georgia?

The state's school superintendent has proposed striking the word evolution from Georgia's science curriculum and replacing it with the phrase "biological changes over time." (according to CNN)

And according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution Georgia has a new high school history curriculum proposal too. In the proposed changes, teachers will spend two or three weeks discussing the foundation of our country, with the remaining time devoted to studying events from 1876 to the present. Yep, no discussion of the Civil War; that topic is off limits. In a course entitled "American History," students will not study that. There is no mention of Fort Sumter, Abraham Lincoln, Robert E. Lee or anything else associated with those years.

Geez, when I lived in North Carolina the kids were taught about "the late unpleasantness between the states." It wasn't a "civil war" really - but it happened.

No, it's hard to make this into satire. It stands by itself and needs no embellishment.

___

And you might want to read a few opinions from Townhall - the site that gathers essays from thinkers on the right, every single day.

Try these out.

The other America
Rich Lowry, January 29, 2004

The argument? In reality, there are two Americas: one hardworking, married, and paying taxes; and one lazy, having illegitimate babies, and in need of a kick in the ass so it will stop making us taxpayers support it.
Poverty in America is primarily a cultural phenomenon, driven by a shattered work ethic and sexual irresponsibility.

... According to the Heritage Foundation's welfare expert Robert Rector, the typical poor family with children is supported by only 800 hours of work annually, or about 16 hours a week. This number holds in good economic times and bad, because it is a factor of attitudes toward work rather than the availability of jobs. If the amount of work in these households were equivalent to one adult working 40 hours a week, roughly 75 percent of poor children would be lifted out of poverty.

... The problem is not, as liberals argue, low wages. If you are only working 16 hours a week, you will pretty much be poor unless you're a TV anchor. Raising the minimum wage isn't going to help someone working so few hours. It is the amount of work that matters. If a single mother works full time at the minimum wage -- factoring in such income supplements as the Earned Income Tax Credit and food stamps -- she will not be poor.
Heard it before. Click on the link for the whole thing.

Oh, and this:

Smugness
Emmett Tyrrell, January 29, 2004
The argument? Palm Beach County is oppressing Rush Limbaugh, and nobody cares, and yes, the Founding Fathers would be outraged!
...The harassment of Limbaugh provides another unlovely glimpse into the workings of the liberal elites. From the days of FDR, they have used the law to persecute political opponents. FDR used the IRS and FBI against such an array of opponents from former Secretary of the Treasury Andrew Mellon, to publishers Moses Annenberg and Col. Robert R. McCormick, to labor leader John L. Lewis. All were innocent. Limbaugh is in good company.

... it is repulsive to see the rest of the press sitting quietly by. That Limbaugh, a first offender and recovering addict to pain killers rather than street drugs, is being unfairly harassed is clear to anyone but a political zealot. Conceivably, his harassment will end in court appearances and even a jail term. Will that please his opponents? "We got Limbaugh on an OxyContin charge." It might be a first.
Sigh.

Yeah, I'm paying too much attention to the news and what people say about how things should be.

I think I'll pull down Swift's Tale of a Tub and read the "Digression on Madness" again.

Posted by Alan at 18:25 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Friday, 30 January 2004 21:10 PST home

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