2011/08/28

Sympathy?

Should we feel any sympathy for former President George W. Bush?


By that time, W. had belatedly realized that Cheney was a crank whose bad advice and disdainful rants against “the diplomatic path” and “multilateral action” had pretty much ruined his presidency.
There were few times before the bitter end that W. was willing to stand up to Vice.

I'm remembering that "W." had pretty much the same reaction to appointing John Bolton to be our UN Ambassador, standing with him and against his many critics and finally realizing and lamenting that "I spent political capital for him."  No, 'fraid to say my sympathy for G.W. Bush could barely fill a thimble.

Cheney was the one who struggled for months with the Department of Justice over the warrantless surveillance program. Bush was finally informed that officials from the DOJ were prepared to resign as a group over the program's blatant illegality, but he had to do a lot of frantic catch-up because Cheney had kept him completely in the dark about it. Even the President's National Security Adviser, Condoleezza Rice, and the President's Counter-Terrorism Adviser, Frances Townsend, had very little information about the program.

Former General and Secretary of State Colin Powell is unimpressed with Cheney's "Heads will explode" statement, comparing it to a statement one might find in a supermarket tabloid. Lawrence Wilkerson denies that the Bush Administration continued torturing suspects after the Abu Ghraib photos came out. Gee, if Cheney's favored methods of getting information was so amazingly successful, then why did the Bush Administration feel so free to so completely discard such methods?

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Unsurprising update: Condoleezza Rice strongly disagrees that she "tearfully" said anything to Cheney at any time. That description from Cheney struck me as wishful-thinking, after-the-fact revisionism the moment I heard it.

2011/08/27

Colombiana

Very cool flick! Question though, is Colombiana a superheroine? It's not like she explicitly has any superpowers, but her exploits are so fantastically amazing early on, I was completely prepared to exercise suspension of disbelief in later scenes. One of the last scenes, though, is good in that restores a real sense of humanity and realness to the character. She emerges all disheveled and ragged looking, so I accepted that "No, no the character really went through all that and survived solely because she's just an amazing ninja babe-type character."

2011/08/26

Just as I said

In former Vice-President Dick Cheney's book, we learn:


The book opens with an account of Mr. Cheney’s experiences during the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, when he essentially commanded the government’s response from a bunker beneath the White House while Mr. Bush — who was away from Washington and hampered by communications breakdowns — played a peripheral role. (emphasis added)

Of course Bush was reduced to playing a peripheral role! As I said back in 2005 (I said it as early as 2002, but this is the earliest point in my blogging that I can locate this statement):

My conclusion that during 9-11, the President should have gotten himself to a command post, either at a base, to Air Force One or onto a ship is based on my Damage-Control experience.

And:
There are two reasons for the President to get to a command post:
  1. Safety. A ship or a plane can get underway or take off and can promptly be surrounded by escorts, i.e. other ships and planes. Military bases are normally placed in safe, defensible areas and the base command post is usually well inside the base, able to be surrounded by troops. Of course, there's a reason to want the President to be safe. Being safe is not an end in itself. The President is only one person and there are 250 million other people in the United States for us to worry about. Accordingly, we're concerned about:
  2. Communications. The other primary reason is so that the President can communicate with the Armed Services. Not just one-way communications. Both directions are needed. The President must be informed in real time as to what's going on and he should respond in real time so that the proper orders can be issued. An example would be during the September 11th attacks in 2001.

As I said, for Bush to fail to get himself to a command post on the morning of 9-11 constitutes what the UCMJ refers to as Dereliction of Duty. When the President fails to do his job, that's when unauthorized people get the chance to muck things up.

2011/08/23

Heated comments

Rick Santorum made some rather angry-sounding, heated comments about Representative Maxine Waters (D-CA). Waters had pressed for job-creation policies and used some rather heated language herself:


"This is a tough game," she explained. "You can't be intimidated. You can't be frightened. And as far as I'm concerned -- the 'tea party' can go straight to hell."

Why is Waters so angry? A lot of her frustration actually has to do with the President.
...Illinois Democrat Jesse Jackson, Jr. says he understands her frustration. “President Obama got 96 percent of [the black] vote but he isn’t dealing with our biggest problem—unemployment—which is more than twice that of whites,” Jackson told Colorlines.com...
And
The Los Angeles representative was unhappy that the president chose to take his recent bus tour through Midwestern rural areas instead of urban centers where blacks live...

Co-founders of the Tea Party Patriots are very unhappy with her remark, of course, and they condemned her remark and asked "Is civility required only of their opponents?" Santorum added:

"She's a caricature of what's wrong with Congress," Santorum told conservative radio host Steve Malzberg. "She's vile. She's always been that way, and she's just one of these real, real nasty, you know, anti-basic traditional, fundamental values of this country."
"This is the left in America. They absolutely despise, you know, the founding principles of this country, that believes in free people, that believes in limited government. She is someone who believes she should control what's going on in America, that she knows best, and that people that stand by constitutional principles of limited government are folks who are to be condemned."

Whoof! Did we get up on the wrong side of the bed this morning?!?!? "Vile"? But what I found especially interesting here is his apparent defense of Herbert Hoover-type policies as opposed to Franklin Roosevelt-type policies. Problem is, if Hoover-type policies were so effective, why aren't Republicans claiming that they're working just fine? It probably doesn't help that economic indicators are getting softer as Republicans pass their 200th day in control of the House of Representatives. Housing sales are off. The economy is dipping. A blogger looks at a growing company (Apple) versus a shrinking company (Eastman Kodak), compares US economic policy to Kodak's and concludes that both the US economy and Kodak are showing poor morale and an aversion to risk that augur poorly for the future. Will the "super committee" created by the debt-ceiling deal accomplish anything? Probably not.

So, I have a feeling that if "basic traditional, fundamental values" were doing well, Santorum wouldn't be nearly as upset. If doing essentially nothing were causing the economy to pick itself up, then Santorum would be much easier and breezy about Waters' criticism. As it is, Santorum sounds pretty bent out of shape about it.

2011/08/14

False equivalence

This is the most maddening of the Washington DC press corps' failings, this constant resort to false equivalence, the idea that "both sides do it." The conclusion of this constantly-repeated tale is, of course, that the "Goldilocks" conclusion gets continually reinforced, the idea that if "this bowl is too hot (or leftist) and if this bowl is too cold (too right-wing) then the one in the middle, the "sensible" centrist, must be just right."

Matt Bai of the WaPo examines the Republican debate of August 11th and writes a few very sensible paragraphs about how extremely reactionary the candidates all are on taxes. But then he veers off the rails with this abominable paragraph:


If this were merely a Republican phenomenon, the party would be alone in suffering the wrath of the average American voter. But it isn’t. You could have put a lot of Washington Democrats up on that stage, and asked them if they would have accepted $10 in new taxes or new stimulus in exchange for $1 in cuts to Social Security, and you probably would have gotten much the same response: hell, no.

Nonsense. The Democratic Party is nowhere even near as fanatically stubborn on any issues as the Republicans are on just about anything. The reason the Republican Party is not "alone in suffering the wrath" of the voters is (And Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell understands this very well) is because voters can only spend so much time and attention to understanding political issues. If outlets like, say, Fox News take up some of that limited time with a lot of lies, then only a small minority of voters truly understands what goes on. Voters understand that our political system is deeply dysfunctional, but not necessarily why that is. If the average voter were truly well-informed and had the time and motivation needed to truly understand the issues, then Bai's analysis would be correct.

As a direct consequence of Bai's mis-reading, he then moves on to reach more incorrect conclusions:

And this is the central disconnect between Washington and the broad center of the country, the source of all that fury you see in the polls. Fewer and fewer Americans engage as activists in either party, which means that primaries are financed and waged primarily by the ideological extremes on either side.

There is no "broad center." Voters may not have any idea as to where they are on the political spectrum, but they have definite opinions as to what the right answers are. If they're given a set of questions and one then scores their answers on a right-left scale, Americans are a pretty leftist lot. True, both sides during primary votes are dominated by motivated, high-information voters, but Bai can't demonstrate, with actual, concrete examples, that Democrats are as equally ideological or intransigent as Republicans are. In order to maintain his narrative (that is based on a false equivalence), Bai has to be completely incoherent about the President. In one sentence, voters are "losing faith because [Obama] got rolled, and they’re still looking for someone — as they were in 2008 — who has the strength and shrewdness to reform the system." In a later sentence: "At least Mr. Obama seems determined to seek a grand compromise on cuts and revenues that would change the nation’s fiscal trajectory."

Erm, sorry, but "getting rolled" doesn't sound to me as though it's equal to having the "strength and shrewdness to reform the system" and wow, would anyone trust such a person to seek a "grand compromise"?!?!?! Going for a "grand compromise" and "getting rolled" sound to me like a surefire formula for a grand failure! How in the heck does all of that work in one package? Once one starts off one's analysis badly, one just goes downhill from there.

2011/08/08

Status of my car


Okay, the car is fixed and I'm mobile again. Whew! Price was kinda “Yikes!” but I managed it. 
Toyota, where I brought the car, had been sending me notices about having to get an inspection, so they were my first choice for getting the car repaired: “Oh, sorry, we're backed up for a week. We can't get to your car until at least the 15th.” Shriek! 
Fortunately, I decided several years ago that I didn't want to be dependent on just one shop, so my brother-in-law introduced me to the shop he used. They were the guys I called. By early afternoon, the car was fixed. The big shops and malls certainly have their place, but so do the littler guys. For instance, I tend to buy computers at big computer places, but I like getting the upgrades and improvements at the smaller shops.