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"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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Tuesday, 20 January 2004

Topic: Bush

What will the man say?

Despite the jobless recovery, despite that most Americans don?t feel safer from terrorism than they did two years ago, despite that forty-four million Americans still don?t have health insurance, despite that the U.S. still doesn?t have a viable energy plan, despite the fact we still haven?t gotten the independent report on 9-11, despite that the investigators still haven?t told us who outed Valerie Plame, despite that 500 Americans (and literally uncounted numbers of Iraqis) have been killed in the continuing war in Iraq ? well, in thirty minutes I will watch the Bush State of Union Address.

My Aussie friend Emma, who has lived in France for many years, forwarded an item from The Independent (UK)

See George W Bush and the real state of the Union, January 20, 2004

It contains this:
232: Number of American combat deaths in Iraq between May 2003 and January 2004

501: Number of American servicemen to die in Iraq from the beginning of the war - so far

0: Number of American combat deaths in Germany after the Nazi surrender to the Allies in May 1945

0: Number of coffins of dead soldiers returning home from Iraq that the Bush administration has allowed to be photographed

0: Number of funerals or memorials that President Bush has attended for soldiers killed in Iraq

100: Number of fund-raisers attended by Bush or Vice-President Dick Cheney in 2003

13: Number of meetings between Bush and Tony Blair since he became President

10 million: Estimated number of people worldwide who took to the streets in opposition to the invasion of Iraq, setting an all-time record for simultaneous protest

2: Number of nations that Bush has attacked and taken over since coming into the White House

9.2: Average number of American soldiers wounded in Iraq each day since the invasion in March last year

1.6: Average number of American soldiers killed in Iraq per day since hostilities began

16,000: Approximate number of Iraqis killed since the start of war

10,000: Approximate number of Iraqi cililians killed since the beginning of the conflict

$100 billion: Estimated cost of the war in Iraq to American citizens by the end of 2003

$13 billion: Amount other countries have committed towards rebuilding Iraq (much of it in loans) as of 24 October

36%: Increase in the number of desertions from the US army since 1999

92%: Percentage of Iraq's urban areas that had access to drinkable water a year ago

60%: Percentage of Iraq's urban areas that have access to drinkable water today

32%: Percentage of the bombs dropped on Iraq this year that were not precision-guided

1983: The year in which Donald Rumsfeld gave Saddam Hussein a pair of golden spurs

45%: Percentage of Americans who believed in early March 2003 that Saddam Hussein was involved in the 11 September attacks on the US

$127 billion: Amount of US budget surplus in the year that Bush became President in 2001

$374 billion: Amount of US budget deficit in the fiscal year for 2003

1st: This year's deficit is on course to be the biggest in United States history

$1.58 billion: Average amount by which the US national debt increases each day

$23,920: Amount of each US citizen's share of the national debt as of 19 January 2004

1st: The record for the most bankruptcies filed in a single year (1.57 million) was set in 2002

10: Number of solo press conferences that Bush has held since beginning his term. His father had managed 61 at this point in his administration, and Bill Clinton 33

1st: Rank of the US worldwide in terms of greenhouse gas emissions per capita

$113 million: Total sum raised by the Bush-Cheney 2000 campaign, setting a record in American electoral history

$130 million: Amount raised for Bush's re-election campaign so far

$200m: Amount that the Bush-Cheney campaign is expected to raise in 2004

$40m: Amount that Howard Dean, the top fund-raiser among the nine Democratic presidential hopefuls, amassed in 2003

28: Number of days holiday that Bush took last August, the second longest holiday of any president in US history (Recordholder: Richard Nixon)

13: Number of vacation days the average American worker receives each year

3: Number of children convicted of capital offences executed in the US in 2002. America is only country openly to acknowledge executing children

1st: As Governor of Texas, George Bush executed more prisoners (152) than any governor in modern US history

2.4 million: Number of Americans who have lost their jobs during the three years of the Bush administration

221,000: Number of jobs per month created since Bush's tax cuts took effect. He promised the measure would add 306,000

1,000: Number of new jobs created in the entire country in December. Analysts had expected a gain of 130,000

1st: This administration is on its way to becoming the first since 1929 (Herbert Hoover) to preside over an overall loss of jobs during its complete term in office

9 million: Number of US workers unemployed in September 2003

80%: Percentage of the Iraqi workforce now unemployed

55%: Percentage of the Iraqi workforce unemployed before the war

43.6 million: Number of Americans without health insurance in 2002

130: Number of countries (out of total of 191 recognised by the United Nations) with an American military presence

40%: Percentage of the world's military spending for which the US is responsible

$10.9 million: Average wealth of the members of Bush's original 16-person cabinet

88%: Percentage of American citizens who will save less than $100 on their 2006 federal taxes as a result of 2003 cut in capital gains and dividends taxes

$42,000: Average savings members of Bush's cabinet are expected to enjoy this year as a result in the cuts in capital gains and dividends taxes

$42,228: Median household income in the US in 2001

$116,000: Amount Vice-President Cheney is expected to save each year in taxes

44%: Percentage of Americans who believe the President's economic growth plan will mostly benefit the wealthy

700: Number of people from around the world the US has incarcerated in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba

1st: George W Bush became the first American president to ignore the Geneva Conventions by refusing to allow inspectors access to US-held prisoners of war

+6%: Percentage change since 2001 in the number of US families in poverty

1951: Last year in which a quarterly rise in US military spending was greater than the one the previous spring

54%: Percentage of US citizens who believe Bush was legitimately elected to his post

1st: First president to execute a federal prisoner in the past 40 years. Executions are typically ordered by separate states and not at federal level

9: Number of members of Bush's defence policy board who also sit on the corporate board of, or advise, at least one defence contractor

35: Number of countries to which US has suspended military assistance after they failed to sign agreements giving Americans immunity from prosecution before the International Criminal Court

$300 million: Amount cut from the federal programme that provides subsidies to poor families so they can heat their homes

$1 billion: Amount of new US military aid promised Israel in April 2003 to offset the "burdens" of the US war on Iraq

58 million: Number of acres of public lands Bush has opened to road building, logging and drilling

200: Number of public-health and environmental laws Bush has attempted to downgrade or weaken

29,000: Number of American troops - which is close to the total of a whole army division - to have either been killed, wounded, injured or become so ill as to require evacuation from Iraq, according to the Pentagon

90%: Percentage of American citizens who said they approved of the way George Bush was handling his job as president when asked on 26 September, 2001

53%: Percentage of American citizens who approved of the way Bush was handling his job as president when asked on 16 January, 2004
Well, that?s cheery. And the spelling so British!

Molly Ivins from Austin, Texas has another take.

See It's about money
Follow the greenbacks to learn where seemingly haphazard Bush policy comes from
Molly Ivins - Creators Syndicate, Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Her take?
My fellow Americans, the state of the union's finances is enough to make an Enron accountant gag. When George W. Bush took office, he was handed a going concern. Projected annual surpluses from 2002 to 2011 were $5.6 trillion. In its most recent projection, the Congressional Budget Office says it expects $1.4 trillion in total deficits from 2004 to 2013. Bush's new future spending proposals -- including everything from the goofy manned-flight-to-Mars to the promotion of marriage -- already total an additional $2 trillion.

? It is unclear to me why anyone would believe anything the president says about our fiscal situation. Keep in mind, this is a man who took three Texas oil companies into bankruptcy.
And then she gets on her high horse about jobs, of all things.
I anticipate a painful skewing of the statistics on jobs, but there's not much even the finest spinners can do with the basic problem. Under Bill Clinton, the economy gained an average of 236,000 jobs every month. Under George W. Bush, the economy has lost an average of 66,000 jobs a month. Nor is the news getting better. Last month, the economy, supposedly in full recovery, added 1,000 jobs. The economy needs to generate 150,000 jobs a month just to absorb new workers.

Not only are the 2 million jobs we have already lost not coming back, but the trend will continue. The lead story in Monday's Wall Street Journal is about IBM's plan to shift 3,000 high-paying jobs overseas, known as "off-shoring." We are not just hemorrhaging manufacturing jobs. As the Journal reports, "This ?off-shoring' process has raised fears that even high-skill jobs that were supposed to represent the U.S.'s future are being lost to countries that have already taken over low-skill factory work." In the other words, your nice, middle-class butt is on the line here.

There are, of course, some jobs that cannot be exported -- farms cannot be moved to another country, nor can restaurants. So the president proposes a giant new bracero program to import foreign workers legally to fill those jobs. As Jamie Galbraith wrote in Salon, the online magazine: "There is no reason to believe the Bush administration's hand-wringing over its pathetic record on employment. The president's backers want a stagnant job market -- it keeps the help from getting uppity."

In another sign of how deeply Bush cares about workers, the plan to end overtime pay for millions of workers is back. You may recall this little charmer from last year, the Bush proposal to "update" the Fair Labor Standards Act. Both the House and the Senate nixed the idea by passing an amendment proposed by Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa, but in the magic way of the Republican-run Congress, the amendment was later dropped from a spending bill after heavy pressure from the White House.

Now, in another move typical of the administration, they plan to bypass Congress altogether and issue the new regulations as an "administrative rules change," to go into effect in March. The administration claims the new regulations will extend overtime pay to an additional 1.3 million low-income workers. That would certainly be a good thing, except for the fact that it would exempt another 8 million workers from getting overtime by reclassifying them as management or professionals. Another great deal for the corporations -- they get to cut overtime for a lot of higher-paid workers and only have to add a few lower-paid workers. Do you really have any doubts about whom this administration is being run for?
So what will Bush say about all this?

I can hardly wait, and I recommend you click on the link and read the whole Ivins piece.

Oops. Time to turn on the television and see what Bush actually has to say.

Posted by Alan at 17:46 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Tuesday, 20 January 2004 19:30 PST home

Topic: Election Notes

Quick Summary ? Who is Saying What About Iowa

I spent some time today surfing the net reading reactions to the results of the Democratic Party Caucuses in Iowa last night.

The mainstream press?

Des Moines Register - Chuck Raasch
In a frigid night of caucuses, Democratic activists revived the once-moribund campaign of Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, exposed serious vulnerabilities in the still-formidable crusade of ex-Vermont Governor Howard Dean, and served notice that North Carolina Senator John Edwards is a newcomer worth deeper consideration in the eight states with primaries and caucuses over the next two weeks.

And Iowans ended the long presidential dreams of Congressman Dick Gephardt of Missouri.
What's next? A more protracted fight for the Democratic nomination in 2004 than was expected a month ago, when pundits were boiling Iowa down to a Dean vs Gephardt match, and retired Army General Wesley Clark was just beginning to catch on.
Christian Science Monitor - Commentary
Perhaps Mr Edwards's late surge in the polls was simply because of his commitment to refraining from negative ads about his opponents or verbally elbowing them in debates.

Many voters see leadership in keeping the high tone in a campaign, especially after months of intra-party potshots and pea-shooting. By running a straightforward campaign, Edwards realized that voters must get over what he called "an enormous barrier of cynicism" about campaigns and elections.

A fine line exists between fairly pointing out one's differences with an opponent's policies and attacking them or implying a lack of integrity.

Too many campaign ads feature out of context quotes, unflattering photos, or doomsday-like voiceover and music. Voters know when an ad has destructive power or when it lacks respect, and candidates should, too
Washington Post - Editorial
Mr Dean's hopes for an Iowa Perfect Storm - his camp's slogan for the final weekend of campaigning - turned into a Messy Blizzard.

In the end, Mr Kerry staged an astounding political comeback to win the caucuses, and Mr Edwards pulled off a feat nearly as impressive, emerging from single digits a few weeks back to a strong second-place finish.

That Mr Dean didn't win was in the end less surprising than that he ran so far behind the top two; the stakes for him in New Hampshire, where his once-dominant lead in the polls has been steadily eroding, now become even higher.
New York Times - Opinion
A great many people were caught off guard by the Iowa caucus results, including, of course, supporters of Howard Dean and Richard Gephardt.

But high up on the list of bad guessers were all the political theorists who believed that the Democrats who are angry at George Bush wanted the presidential candidate who best channelled their outrage. Yesterday, at least, being angry at Mr Bush meant wanting to find a candidate who could beat him.

John Kerry, who came in first last night, and John Edwards, who scored a surprising second, appeared to be the men voters thought looked most electable. That throws cold water, at least temporarily, on the long-held theory that primary voters favor candidates who are too far to the left or right to win in the fall.

In this era of attack-dog politics, it's nice to have a moment of pragmatism.
Boston Globe - Thomas Oliphant
The swiftness of Dean's demise in Iowa can been seen in the fact that roughly 40% of the caucus attendees said they made up their minds whom to support within the last seven days. Among this surprisingly large group, Kerry and Edwards each got a third while the one-time front-runners Dean and Gephardt got 15 and 10% respectively.

This was an issue-oriented electorate, but instead of the war, it was the economy, education, jobs and health care - kitchen table issues vital to ordinary working families - that mattered most, and Dean's war fixation and process slogans about taking back the country did not resonate among them.
Time - Karen Tumulty
If there was one message blowing out of Iowa on Tuesday night, it is that Democrats want to beat George Bush, and that they want it badly.

The results, roughly the reverse of what the polls were showing a month ago, would have seemed impossible even last week. The two things that were supposed to matter more than anything else in the state - organization and endorsements - counted for little.

It was hard to pick which was the more unlikely outcome: that John Kerry, whose campaign, only three weeks ago, seemed to have crashed and burned, would win the caucuses, or that John Edwards, whose effort looked like it could never get off the ground, would come in such a close second.

As for Howard Dean: when Democratic voters took a second look at him, they put aside their passion for their doubts.

The blogs? All over the place.

The general consensus? The man who runs the country, who makes almost ever decision in the White House, Karl Rove (Cheney makes the rest and the two of them tell Bush what to say), is probably worried because this was supposed to be a George Bush versus Howard Dean race, where Dean would be buried in a Bush landslide because it was so easy to make Dean out to be an unstable, manic fool. That?s harder with Kerry, who can debate pretty well and knows his stuff. And Edwards is a genuinely nice man, so GWB would have to lose his trademark smirk. And Clark might make things uncomfortable for Bush ? the military business.

The oddest comment? Someone somewhere pointed out Kerry and John McCain are best friends, and Kerry could ask McCain to be his running mate. Bush would be outgunned so to speak, by two angry real military men and wouldn?t dare put on that flight suit again. Kerry-Clark or Clark-Kerry would do, but McCain would pull in disaffected Republicans. No. I don?t think so.

A few pundits point out Kerry will be ripped apart by the press now, just as the liberal press (assuming there is one) ripped apart Gore last time. They just don?t like him. He?s far smarter than most folks in the press and isn?t bothering to pretend he?s not. They?ll get him. It?s take-down time.

And everyone agrees Dean?s speech after the results last night was the kiss of death. As James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal put it ?
? Indeed, when he should have delivered a graceful concession speech, he went on a tirade instead and succeeded only in scaring the hell out of everyone. "At his post-caucus rally Monday night, Dr. Dean looked more like Howard Beale, the angry anchor in 'Network,' than 'Marcus Welby, M.D.,' " the New York Times observes dryly.

You really have to see it - or hear it - to believe it. The Drudge Report has a 13-second MP3 clip of Dean listing the various states where he plans to campaign, followed by a scream that Drudge transcribes as follows: "YAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!" and the Times have video. And the Western Front blog links to an audio clip of professional wrestler Hulk Hogan, who sounds just like Dean.
A friend said to me this was clearly a manic break. The man is toast.

And Dick Gephardt is gone now. Well, his attack ads on Dean, and Dean?s counter attacks on all who attacked him, didn?t do anyone any good.

And the labor movement is not just dead, it?s decomposing, as several have said. The endorsements didn?t matter, from labor or from anyone else.

So a rather stiff but good, wise man came in first. He may not play in the southern states, but he?s a pretty good choice against Bush. In second place was a truly nice man, Edwards, with solid ideas and a good heart. He used his moment in the spotlight to talk about our "moral obligation" to help the poorest Americans. Good Lord, what is this - 1968? Well, that was a good year.

Oh, and my conservative friend told me Saturday night no one would vote for Edwards because before he entered politics Edwards was a trial lawyer. He won money for people badly injured by defective products. And my friend said anyone who is so against American businesses would be rejected by anyone with any sense.

On to New Hampshire.

Posted by Alan at 17:21 PST | Post Comment | Permalink

Topic: Oddities

Living History ? The Past is Always With Us

This on the news wires today:

See You'll Never Guess Who's Still Alive
LONDON (Reuters) - British war leader Winston Churchill's foul-mouthed 104-year old parrot refused to surrender to newshounds Monday after a British newspaper tracked the bird down and discovered it was still alive.

"They've been trying to get him to talk all day, but he's not saying much," said Sylvia Martin, who manages Heathfield Nurseries where parrot Charlie has lived for the last 12 years.

Charlie, who kept Churchill company during World War II, was famous for occasionally squawking four-letter obscenities about Hitler. But Martin told Reuters the bird has mellowed.

"He doesn't say very much anymore -- usually just hello and goodbye. But he does get so excited about music and dances to it. He's very fit."

Charlie -- invariably referred to as "he" despite being female -- is now owned by Peter Oram, the garden center's owner, Martin said. Oram's father-in-law sold Churchill the bird and was asked to take it back after the prime minister died in 1965.

Steve Nichols, founder of Britain's National Parrot Sanctuary, said that although parrots did not often live longer than 40 in the wild, some had lived to up to 110.

"It's obviously had the best life possible," he said.
Well, my friends tell me I think too much about history, and what happened in the past. It?s good to see this continuity. And I?m sure Charlie is a fine old bird.

Post all Monty Python references and comments about dead parrots who have "shuffled off their mortal coil" below.

Posted by Alan at 09:37 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Wednesday, 21 January 2004 06:15 PST home

Monday, 19 January 2004

Topic: Oddities


"Sentimentality is feeling about nothing. Sentiment, on the same hand, is what people who are scared of feeling describe as sentimentality."
- Hans Keller, The Sentimental Violin

I'll have to think about that. It sounds very wise. Perhaps it isn't.

Posted by Alan at 23:25 PST | Post Comment | Permalink

Topic: Bush

George Bush: Dog Trainer

A few days ago I posted a discussion of an article by Victor Davis Hanson that had appeared in The National Review. In it Hanson explains that out foreign policy is based on sound principles.

His contention? All the world is consumed with pathological envy of the United States, thus it is important to humiliate those who oppose our policies and actions. This, and only this, causes real progress in world affairs, brings peace and makes us safe. And thus George Bush is wonderful at foreign relations. QED.

My discussion ended with this: The argument is that people envy us so the logical thing to do is humiliate them, then offer friendship once they know their place. Cool.

Well, my friend in London, Ontario ? who is a dog owner and loves the little beasts - sent this, a brief analogy that further explains this logic:
It?s just like getting a puppy I guess.

They don?t really ?envy? you, but hope to be the Alpha some day. Close enough.

So you roll ?em onto their backs to a submission/humiliation pose, then offer friendship and ?belonging? by feeding them a treat from your hand.

Well, we?ve rolled the Iraqis onto their backs. Now we forgive their debt, get their pipelines flowing, and hand out Christmas toys to their children. And voila, le tour est jouee?
Well, even cooler.

Posted by Alan at 16:49 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Tuesday, 20 January 2004 08:35 PST home

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