Category Archives: George W. Bush

Your Monday Random-Ass Roundup: Nuts about ACORN

Today in my office, a pimp and his prostitute came looking for advice on where to score some blow and advice on how to fill out their W-2s. When I told them what they could do, they accused me of encouraging them to engage in public masturbation. I hope Beck and Co. don’t get hold of the video:

pimp

It’s hard out here for a pimp. No, really. James O’Keefe and Hannah Giles (not pictured above) risked their lives, limbs and a camcorder to infiltrate the den of “thug criminality” that is the largest organization of poor and working families in America.

This is a time for us to appreciate their deep commitment to maligning ACORN, which clearly is an issue of utmost importance in these most troubled and divisive of times. I am sure their hearts and motives are pure.

Now if we can, let us move forward and consider some of the news of the weekend:

1. As always, if you want to learn something new or interesting or possibly infuriating about health care reform, reading Ezra Klein is essential. (Blackink)

2. Are pregnancy, bunions, acne, or receiving therapy or counseling pre-existing conditions that might allow health insurers a reason to deny people coverage? Of course. Best health care system in the world, eh? (Blackink)

3. Officially, according to a U.S. Census report, the Bush years were full of fail. h/t John Cole. (Blackink)

4. Go with your first instincts, Roxanne Wilson. (Quadmoniker)

5. Massachusetts might appoint an interim replacement for the U.S. Senate seat left vacant by the late Ted Kennedy by the end of the week. (Blackink)

6. In an e-mail sent to friends and supporters last week, Van Jones made his first public comments since resigning from the White House. Said Jones: “Of course, some supporters actually think I will be more effective on the ‘outside.’ Maybe so. But those ideas always remind me of that old canard about Winston Churchill. After he lost a hard-fought election, a friend told him: ‘Winston, this really is just a blessing in disguise.’ Churchill quipped: ‘Damned good disguise.’ I can certainly relate to that sentiment right now. :)” (Blackink)

7. D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty is cutting federally funded child care in the poorest wards of the District. Making it more difficult for single mothers to bring in money (or inviting child neglect cases) seems like a counter intuitive way of addressing city budget issues, at best. (Shani-o)

8. Something we probably won’t see in any campaign brochures from Texas Gov. Rick Perry next year: Texas remains first in the nation in rates of uninsured residents and uninsured children. Upholding family values and rebuffing creeping socialism … I love my home state. (Blackink)

9. Also related: Perry is not a very smart or honest man. (Blackink)

10. House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) backed off prior claims that President Obama is a socialist because, uh … he’s not one. (Blackink)

11. Among those at the Values Voter Summit this weekend, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee was the clear choice for 2012 Republican presidential nominee. The 600 voters said abortion was the most important issue in determining their choice. What else is there to say about that? (Blackink)

12. Also at the Values Voter Summit, the chief of staff for Republican Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma made the case that: 1. we should trust the sexual instincts of prepubescent boys; 2. bigotry against homosexuals is fine by him; and 3. “all pornography is homosexual pornography.” Video here. Sigh … Michael Schwartz and his ilk are almost completely beyond ridicule. (Blackink)

13. So rather than resort to ridicule, Amanda Marcotte moves the conversation forward to talk about some of the very real problems with porn. Which don’t include making boys turn gay. (Blackink).

14. Don’t you love links about porn? Yes. Well, here’s another: “The awkward truth, according to one study, is that 90 percent of 8-to-16-year-olds have viewed pornography online. Considering the standard climax to even the most vanilla hard-core scene today, that means there is an entire generation of young people who think sex ends with a money shot to the face.” Whoa. (Blackink)

15. Feminist Finance speculates on where she’d be if she hadn’t rejected all the “dudely money advice” she’s received over the years. (Shani-o)

16. BitchPh.D puts out a call for volunteers for the 40 days for CHOICE campaign. (Blackink)

17. For John and Elizabeth Edwards’ sake, I hope his former aide is lying about this: “Mr. Edwards once calmed an anxious Ms. Hunter by promising her that after his wife died, he would marry her in a rooftop ceremony in New York with an appearance by the Dave Matthews Band.” Please let that be a lie. (Blackink)

18. Let us mourn the death of American civility with Jude at First Draft. (Blackink)

19. Bruce Bartlett remembers Irving Kristol, father of neoconservatism. (Jamelle)

20. According to Marcus Buckingham at the Huff Post, women have grown increasingly unhappy as they made professional and social progress over the past 40 years. There’s a lot to digest in the provocative piece, and I get the feeling something is missing from this analysis. I need someone smarter than me to fill in the gaps. (Blackink)

21. After six years, Leslie Bennetts says The New York Times is finally attempting to set the record straight about the “Opt-Out Revolution” – well-off women who quit their careers to become full-time mothers. (Blackink)

22. Crooked Timber highlights a recent op-ed in The Chronicle of Higher Education that points out the problem of poor, black and Hispanic students choosing to go to less-demanding college institutions and an overreliance on standardized tests. (Blackink)

23. Colorism isn’t just the purview of black folk — it exists in the South Asian community as well. Sepia Mutiny notes a campaign that’s attempting to address the fear of darker skin. (Shani-o)

24. After charges were dropped last week against five men accused of raping a Hofstra University freshman, Amanda Hess parses some of the many problems of living in a rape culture. That includes false rape accusations. (Blackink)

25. In case there was ever any doubt, Andrew Sullivan has major pull. (Blackink)

26. While I was watching the Giants thump the Cowboys and the season premiere of “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” apparently Neil Patrick Harris and the Emmy Awards were putting on quite the show. (Blackink)

27. I’m finding myself agreeing with Alyssa again: you should definitely get down to your nearest newstand or bookstore, pick up a copy of the latest New Yorker and read Ta-Nehisi’s piece about MF Doom and hip-hop. And, like her, I might quibble a bit with a few parts of the feature. Then again, we’re both from the South. (Blackink)

28. Harry Allen asks if Kanye is doomed to become “the next O.J.”? At the least, Kanye’s “victimization” of Taylor Swift has drawn out some of the bigots among us. (Blackink)

29. Nearly four-fifths of NFL players are bankrupt or struggling financially within two years of retirement. The Business Insider looks at some of the reasons why. (Blackink)

30. And because I’m from Houston and hate the Dallas Cowboys, I really enjoyed this:

Feel free to drop some links that would be of interest or chat among yourselves. Let’s hope we’re all in for a great week.

Deuces.

Soft Bigotry, Meet Low Expectations.

After I read Ross Douthat’s column this morning, I tweeted that I was nominally on board with his attempt to massage George W. Bush’s reputation.

Three hours, two cups of coffee, and a nice helping of sense later, I think I can safely say that my original assessment was a little…off.  First, here’s Douthat in his own words:

America has had its share of disastrous chief executives. But few have gone as far as Bush did in trying to repair their worst mistakes. Those mistakes were the Iraq war — both the decision to invade and the conduct of the occupation — and the irrational exuberance that stoked the housing bubble. The repairs were the surge, undertaken at a time when the political class was ready to abandon Iraq to the furies, and last fall’s unprecedented economic bailout.

Both fixes remain controversial. But for the moment, both look like the sort of disaster-averting interventions for which presidents get canonized. It’s just that in Bush’s case, the disasters he averted were created on his watch. […]

And perhaps his best decisions, on the surge and the bailout, were made from the bunker of a seemingly-ruined presidency — when his approval ratings had bottomed out, his credibility was exhausted and his allies had abandoned him.

This is not a blueprint that future presidents will want to follow. But the next time an Oval Office occupant sees his popularity dissolve and his ambitions turn to dust, he can take comfort from Bush’s example. It suggests that it’s possible to become a good president even — or especially — when you can no longer hope to be a great one.

I’m not sure how much of this is the fault of the medium rather than the messenger, but I don’t think Douthat quite grasps the gravity of President Bush’s mistakes.  The Iraq War wasn’t just a run-of-the-mill piece of unfortunate, but easily corrected, policy.  It was – and is – a strategic and humanitarian disaster of the highest order.  Over the course of six years, the United States has squandered trillions of dollars, destroyed hundreds of thousands of lives and done almost irreparable damage to Iraq’s social fabric.  In retrospect, the surge was a welcome breath of pragmatism from the Bush administration, but even with that (limited) success in mind, it’s incredibly difficult to say that President Bush “fixed” anything.

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The same goes for the financial crisis.  While there’s plenty of blame to go around for the collapse of the housing market and subsequent collapse of the financial system, it’s fair to say that the Bush administration deserves a fair amount of blame for stoking the “irrational exuberance” that in turn stoked the housing bubble.  What’s more, the twin collapses have yielded a tremendous amount of suffering, especially among the poor and working-class.  Since the recession officially began in December 2007, the country has had a net loss of about 5 percent of its non-farm payroll, the brunt of that borne by the most economically insecure members of our society.  The bailouts and TARP were certainly good moves by the administration, and should be recognized as such despite their flaws, but again, to say that those make up for the initial failures is a bit of a stretch.

And I guess that’s my main complaint with Douthat’s column.  To borrow a phrase from President Bush, what Douthat has written is a classic example of the “soft bigotry of low expectations.”  Saying that we should applaud President Bush for taking steps to salvage his disastrous presidency is like praising a roommate for cleaning up a bit after trashing the apartment.  Not only should the place never have been trashed to begin with, but cleaning up after oneself is a matter of course and not particularly praiseworthy.

Your Monday* Random-Ass Roundup: Heard ‘Em Say

Believe it or not, I’ve been known to be a jackass. Ask anyone who had the misfortune of knowing me in college. Or a couple years ago. I really hope President Obama isn’t asked about it anytime soon:


Anyway, lots of things have happened since our last Monday roundup. Here’s a few of them, a week and almost a full day later than usual. Sorry. I blame it on death panels and creeping socialism:

1. As you all probably know, President Obama called Kanye West a “jackass” for his behavior at the VMAs. But that moment was supposed to be off-the-record, and so Terry Moran, the ABC reporter who tweeted the comment, took it down. ABC has apologized. (G.D.)

2. Alyssa agrees: maybe Kanye really does need a break. (Blackink)

3. One picture tells a million – or two million – lies. Politifact gets to the truth about the latest “tea party” in D.C. (Blackink)

4. A new poll says that 73% of doctors want a public option. (G.D.)

5. Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich attempts to bring some sanity – and facts – to talk about the public option. (Blackink)

6. But even if there is a public option, Obama has plans to go beyond language in a House bill to make sure no public money goes to pay for abortions under health care reform. Why? (Blackink)

7. Speaking of health care reform, file this under everything is always good for Wal-Mart. (Blackink)

8. The FDA just approved a new vaccine against the H1N1 virus that causes swine flu. (Blackink)

9. Despite evidence to the contrary, many people, especially Southerners, think crime is on the rise. (Quadmoniker)

10. 50 Things being killed by the Internet. (Belleisa)

11. In eight states and D.C., being a victim of domestic violence is a pre-existing condition. No, really. (Blackink)

12. As if South Carolina tourism officials didn’t have a hard enough sell, a number of people have indicated they’ll be staying away from the Palmetto State following GOP Rep. Joe Wilson’s outburst at President Barack Obama. (Blackink)

13. From Jonathan Chait’s fantastic review of a new biography about Ayn Rand: “‘She wrote of one of the protagonists of her stories that “he does not understand, because he has no organ for understanding, the necessity, meaning, or importance of other people’; and she meant this as praise.” Well, that explains a lot. (Blackink)

14. This is rich: President Bush thought Sarah Palin was underqualified to serve on the national level. Well, he would know best. Also, he thinks Hillary Clinton has a “fat keister.” Classy. (Blackink)

15. Wow. A study in England found that when heroin was given to addicts in supervised clinics, drug use and street crime dropped dramatically. (Blackink)

16. Sort of related: Newly released FBI numbers show that we’re nearing epic fail in the “War on Drugs.” (Blackink)

17. Call it “The Chinese Dream“: a number of Africans are migrating to China in search of economic opportunity. In fact, a 10 square kilometer area in Guangzhou has been dubbed “Chocolate City.” (Blackink)

18. After years of being the envy of the nation, California’s higher education system- if not the state itself – could face a bleak future if it follows through on a plan for a large fee increases. (Blackink)

19. Reports of sexual misconduct of federal inmates by prison staff members have doubled over the past eight years, according to The Washington Post. In many places, as Matt points out, being sentenced to prison is a form of abuse itself.

20. A video of Quentin Tarantino’s best movie picks since 1992. And “Friday” made the list. (Belleisa)

21. Racewire calls Michael Moore’s latest film, “Capitalism, A Love Story,” his best work yet. (Blackink)

22. This post, from Booker Rising, is disgusting. And not even close to funny. There will be more on this later. (Blackink)

23. From Jacket Copy, the LA Times book blog, a site called Slaughter House 90210 which mixes pop culture images with literary captions. (Belleisa)

24. Is anyone really surprised that Jay Leno’s new show was not that funny? (Blackink)

25. The Face of Foreclosure: a Planet Money listener offers up aLink series of photographs outside the foreclosed home of Minneapolis woman Rosemary Williams. (Blackink)

26. South African runner and unfortunate international curiosity Caster Semenya has now been placed on suicide watch. I strongly agree with Pam: “She deserved — and deserves — so much better from the collective us than what she’s received.” (Blackink)

27. Michael Jordan will never let us forget that he was better than everyone else. Not even as he’s being inducted into the Hall of Fame. (Blackink)

28. And give it up, New York. LeBron ain’t playing for the Knicks. Unless, of course, he somehow tires of playing on a winning team. (Blackink)

Told you I was a jackass.

* It’s actually Tuesday.

Question for the Room.

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When Bush flew out of D.C., his final approval numbers sat at an anemic 22 percent. But Cheney’s were even lower, at an almost unimaginable 13 percent.

Obviously, Cheney had a large hand in shaping Bush administration policy on everything from wiretapping to torture — probably a more direct hand than Bush — but I’m still not quite sure why his numbers would be so much lower than Bush’s, who is still the public face of those policies.

Can somebody school me? Are lower poll numbers for a VP the historical trend?

A Maddening Oral History of the Bush Administration.

Vanity Fair’s oral history of the Bush White House is a doozy, filled with nuggets like this one from Richard Clarke on the early days of the administration:

We had a couple of meetings with the president, and there were detailed discussions and briefings on cyber-security and often terrorism, and on a classified program. With the cyber-security meeting, he seemed—I was disturbed because he seemed to be trying to impress us, the people who were briefing him. It was as though he wanted these experts, these White House staff guys who had been around for a long time before he got there—didn’t want them buying the rumor that he wasn’t too bright. He was trying—sort of overly trying—to show that he could ask good questions, and kind of yukking it up with Cheney.

The contrast with having briefed his father and Clinton and Gore was so marked. And to be told, frankly, early in the administration, by Condi Rice and [her deputy] Steve Hadley, you know, Don’t give the president a lot of long memos, he’s not a big reader—well, shit. I mean, the president of the United States is not a big reader?

Then there’s mind-boggling anecdotes like this one from Larry Wilkerson, Colin Powell’s chief of staff, in which he says senior officials were spying on each other.

The Cheney team had, for example, technological supremacy over the National Security Council staff. That is to say, they could read their e-mails. I remember one particular member of the N.S.C. staff wouldn’t use e-mail because he knew they were reading it. He did a test case, kind of like the Midway battle, when we’d broken the Japanese code. He thought he’d broken the code, so he sent a test e-mail out that he knew would rile Scooter [Libby], and within an hour Scooter was in his office.

Um. Is George W. Bush Evil?

I apologize in advance for the Intro to Philosophy-ass rant that follows.

Let’s concede off the top that ‘evil’ is usually the kind of word you’d like not to invoke in political or even quasi-political conversations because it automatically derails constructive discourse about weighty, complicated matters (though we should note the irony of affording Bush this courtesy).

But this isn’t really about Bush, even, so much as it’s about evil and its parameters. Like a lot of people with humanist inclinations, the word tends to make me uncomfortable, but I’m at a loss as to what else to call human suffering caused by violence we’ve seen in Iraq. So let’s assume that the violent deaths of hundreds of thousands of people meets the criteria for evil. Bush and the war’s architects offered up lots of flimsy and since-discredited rationale for going into Iraq. But if the war is evil, then aren’t its actors and architects evil by extension — even if they thought their intentions were noble and the ends justified the means?

On a related note, there’ve been a lot of smart posts in the blogosphere  lately about  “just war” in the light of the madness in Gaza. Here’s Larison:

“…war, while sometimes necessary, is a great evil. It should not be easy to go to war even in self-defense, much less should it be easy to escalate or start wars… the reason for invoking just war theory seems to be mainly to gain the political benefits of being able to claim to being on the right side, and preferably without having to meet most of the obligations that just war theory requires (or to lower the standards for meeting those obligations such that virtually every operation will meet them no matter what happens).”

Okay. So war is evil even if justified. But doesn’t that make the person most directly responsible for its prosecution evil by extension? Or is the evil of an act — even acts with a scale of war —  independent of the actor?

The Iraq War, In a Nutshell.