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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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Sunday, 14 March 2004

New issue of JUST ABOVE SUNSET MAGAZINE now online!

No blogging today.

Sunday is the day I do final assembly and post the week's new issue of this: Just Above Sunset Magazine.

Commentary here will resume tomorrow.

Check it out the news issue of the magazine!

Posted by Alan at 19:29 PST | Post Comment | Permalink

Saturday, 13 March 2004

Topic: Election Notes

Personal Responsibility - Everyone Needs That

Yes, when the House passed the "cheeseburger bill" to bar people from suing fast food restaurant chains for making them obese, Republican backers of the legislation scolded Americans, saying the fault lies not in their fries, but in themselves. "Look in the mirror, because you're the one to blame," said F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. of Wisconsin.

Here's the problem, according to the odd Maureen Dowd in the Sunday Times.

See The Politics of Self-Pity
Maureen Dowd, The New York Times, March 14, 2004

Here's her point:

... it comes as something of a disappointment that the leader of the Republican Party, the man who epitomizes the conservative ideal, is playing the victim. President Bush has made the theme of his re-election campaign a whiny "not my fault."

His ads, pilloried for the crass use of the images of a flag-draped body carried from ground zero and an Arab-looking everyman with the message, "We can fight against terrorists," actually have a more fundamental problem. They try to push off blame for anything that's gone wrong during Mr. Bush's tenure on bigger forces, supposedly beyond his control.

One ad cites "an economy in recession. A stock market in decline. A dot-com boom gone bust. Then a day of tragedy. A test for all Americans."

Mr. Bush's subtext is clear: If it weren't for all these awful things that happened, most of them hangovers from the Clinton era, I definitely could have fulfilled all my promises. I'm still great, but none of my programs worked because, well, stuff happens."

... Mr. Bush has been in office over three years. It's time to start accepting some responsibility.

Republicans have a bad habit of laying down rules for other people to follow while excluding themselves. Look how they beat up Bill Clinton for messing around with a young woman, while many top Republicans were doing the very same thing.

Mr. Bush's whingeing was infectious. The very House Republicans who greased the skids for the cheeseburger bill got in a huff over John Kerry's overheard comment to some supporters in Chicago that his Republican critics were "the most crooked, you know, lying group" he'd ever seen.

These tough-guy Republicans, who rule the House with an iron fist, were suddenly squealing like schoolgirls at being victimized by big, bad John Kerry. J. Dennis Hastert, the House speaker, said Mr. Kerry would have his "upcomeance coming." Tom DeLay sulked that the public was getting "a glimpse of the real John Kerry." The Hammer was talking like a nail.

Marc Racicot, Mr. Bush's campaign chairman, accused Mr. Kerry of "unbecoming" conduct and called on him to apologize.

Oh, the poor dears. The very Bush crowd that savaged John McCain in South Carolina, that bullied and antagonized the allies we need in the real war on terror, that is spending a hundred million dollars on ads that will turn Mr. Kerry into something akin to the Boston Strangler; these guys are suddenly such delicate flowers, such big bawling babies, that they can't bear to hear Mr. Kerry speak of them harshly.

Mr. Bush is not believable in the victim's role. He and Dick Cheney have audaciously imposed their will on Washington and the world.

We are not yet sure who is behind the horrendous bombings in Spain, but they have already underscored how vulnerable our trains and subways are. And they have reminded us that the administration diverted resources from the war on terror and the search for Osama to settle old scores in Iraq, building a case for war with hyped and phony claims on weapons.

In an interview with The Guardian, the weapons sleuth David Kay said it's time for Mr. Bush to take personal responsibility: "It's about confronting and coming clean with the American people. . . . He should say: `We were mistaken and I am determined to find out why.' "

In other words, Mr. Bush, look in the mirror.

Of course....

I do get extraordinarily irritated at my Republican friends who say if you're out of work don't blame anyone but yourself. In fact, don't even blame yourself. Just get a job. It's your responsibility. Have the right positive attitude and stop whining. Don't play the victim. Whether the economy is bad or not, it's your responsibility, no one else's. The government isn't your mommy.

Don't like the way the police didn't respond to your 911 call? Accept responsibility. Personal responsibility. The constitution allows you to own a gun. Take care of yourself.

The public schools stink? Home schooling. Take personal responsibility for you own children.

Social Security? Socialism. Why should I have to pay for your retirement when you didn't take the personal responsibility to save up for your old age? (Actually said to me.)

Welfare. Why don't these folks take "personal responsibility" and get a job. Why should I pay for them to sit on their fat asses and watch Jerry Springer all day?

A thousand examples...

But when the leader of the party of personal responsibility keeps shucking and jiving, well, he's just setting a bad example.

Posted by Alan at 20:40 PST | Post Comment | Permalink

Topic: In these times...

Saturday's daily dose of irony...

Tuesday here you might have noticed International Women's Day, HIPPA, and guns... - as Monday was International Women's Day and Ashcroft's Justice Department was still demanding the medical records of all abortions from selected Planned Parenthood clinics and a number of hospitals. Late in the day Tuesday, after the press had put the next day's issues to bed and the primetime news shows had wrapped, the Justice Department announced they had decided that, well, maybe that hadn't been such a hot idea. They were abandoning that particular effort to shame patients and expose doctors by naming them in public documents.

You see, the administration knew International Women's Day was important. They did their public relations carefully.

Consider this:

Bush praises man in speech on women's rights
Reuters, Friday, March 12, 2004

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President George W. Bus has marked International Women's Week by paying tribute to women reformers -- but one of those he cited is really a man.

"Earlier today, the Libyan government released Fathi Jahmi. She's a local government official who was imprisoned in 2002 for advocating free speech and democracy," the president said in a speech at the White House on Friday.

The only problem was that, by all other accounts, "she" is in fact "he".

"Definitely male," said Alistair Hodgett, spokesman for the human rights advocacy group Amnesty International, whose representatives tried to see Jahmi in prison during a recent visit to Libya.

The U.S. House Committee on International Relations listed Jahmi as a 62-year-old civil engineer who was sentenced to five years in prison "after he reportedly stated during a session of the People's Conference ... that reform within Libya would never take place in the absence of a constitution, pluralism and democracy."

In remarks before a VIP audience, Bush cited Jahmi as a courageous reformer along with Aung San Suu Kyi, the woman democracy icon and Nobel Peace Prize laureate living under house arrest in Myanmar.

All told, the president made references to more than a dozen other women ranging from his wife, first lady Laura Bush, to last year's Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi of Iran. He also mentioned four men including Secretary of State Colin Powell and Deputy Defence Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, who were both present.

"The advance of women's rights and the advance of liberty are ultimately inseparable," the president said. "We stand with courageous reformers."

Oops. Well, these guys do get the general idea.

Male? Female? This kind of reminds me of Bush's interview with Diane Sawyer - as he said then about the WMD (not there, really) and the intent of Saddam to one day maybe get some WMD (there, of course) - "What's the Difference?" He doesn't do nuance.

Posted by Alan at 07:46 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Saturday, 13 March 2004 08:13 PST home

Topic: Election Notes

Advice is cheap. Here's some.

Over at Eschaton the anonymous blogger Atrios gives this advice to the Democrats planning that campaign.

What Kerry - and the Democrats - need to do is to overturn conventional wisdom by re-framing the debate. September 11th happened on Bush's watch, after his administration completely ignored the threat of terrorism. Right now, We All Know that George Bush showed "great leadership" after 9/11. How do we know that? Well, because the goddamn Democrats keep saying it. Truth? Bush ran and hid and then didn't stop wetting his pants until 3 days later. He then went and bombed a stone age country back to the stone age, and then didn't provide the resources to rebuild it. Thousands of Taliban and al Qaeda members were allowed to escape to Pakistan, defeating much of the purpose of said bombing, and we never found Bin Laden, the stated architect of the 9/11 bombing.

We now know that we haven't been devoting the resources to find Bin Laden, because we're now "stepping up" that attempt with Operation Mountain Storm. Why we didn't step up that threat two years ago is obvious - we had to mobilize for Iraq and this gang can't walk and chew gum at the same time (frankly, they can't do them separately either).

So, resources were diverted away from a fighting a gathered threat to a non-threat. We've spent $200 billion fighting this non-threat, much of which went into the pockets of corporations which failed to provide the services they were contracted to do. The immediate aftermath of the Iraq war was bungled, largely due to the utter lack of planning by the "grownups." Suspected WMD sites were looted, civil infrastructure wasn't repaired as the money was diverted to contractors who didn't do it, and civil order was not maintained.

We're spending billions on missile defense, and a measly few millions on improving port security. While terrorists may obtain a nuclear weapon, they are unlikely to obtain a reliable intercontinental missile delivery system. Why bother? They just need to float into any port and push the button.

The only great leadership Bush showed after 9/11 is that he miraculously failed to shit his pants while giving a speech post-9/11. Just about everything else has been a total disaster .

Friendly territory for the president? Sure, but only because no one is bothering to point out the obvious. The Bush foreign policy is a miserable failure.

Makes sense to me. But perhaps this is too blunt and would make people feel sorry for George Bush.

Posted by Alan at 07:30 PST | Post Comment | Permalink

Friday, 12 March 2004

Topic: Election Notes

The daily dose of irony...

In the previous post I mentioned that I love irony. And we're in for many months of it.

Here's today's sample, regarding Bush's visit yesterday to New Jersey and then Long Island.

See At $6 an hour, who needs a tax cut?
Paul Vitello, Newsday, March 12, 2004

It seems Bush's base is, well, "thin" in some odd way...

President George W. Bush arrived on schedule. He gave his speech. He moderated a panel of five people on a makeshift stage in front of a sign that said "Strengthening America's Economy." He wove their stories seamlessly into the fabric of his re-election campaign. He engaged in self-deprecating humor that even a detractor might find charming.

And then he left -- to a standing ovation -- shaking hands all the way to the exit door of U.S.A. Industries in Bay Shore, where his campaign made this first of three stops on Long Island yesterday.

Security people kept reporters from interviewing the workers at U.S.A. until the president was on the way to his next stop.

But when workers were finally interviewed -- these people who made up the bulk of the president's cheering audience in New York -- Bush's performance turned out to be, if anything, even more impressive.

"No speak English," said the first worker, smiling apologetically.

"No speak English," said the second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth workers way-laid in the crowd.

But you think the tax cuts should be made permanent, as he says?

"Sorry, no English," said another.

Yep, he has these votes. Maybe. If they vote. Best they really didn't understand what he was saying. A good campaign tactic.

Somehow this seems very soviet - something about manufacturing throngs of supporters. Oh well.

Posted by Alan at 10:44 PST | Post Comment | Permalink

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