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12.20.2004

"Literally"

Not worth much comment here, but I'm grabbing this because it's another example of one of Andrew's long-held pet peeves, one he identified to me years before David Cross would sling it liberally across his live routine.

To wit: you either believe that the US Military is "literally" GW Bush's "gun," or it's not actually literal at all. Or perhaps the reporter has seen Bush personally wield some firearms of his own that others had tried to dissuade Bush from. Maybe he's thinking of the pistol of Saddam's that Bush keeps on display in the WH?

Update: Bush is Commander in Chief, so the troops/"guns" *are* his to commit at discretion. But making a line between that and "his guns" only perpetuates the suture-ific idea of Bush fighting the war himself, one that perhaps begins with his triumphant carrier landing last year and (sadly) pushes on through his supremely arrogant, childish "bring 'em on" taunt.

TIME Person of the Year 2004: George W. Bush: "For sticking to his guns (literally and figuratively), for reshaping the rules of politics to fit his ten-gallon-hat leadership style and for persuading a majority of voters that he deserved to be in the White House for another four years, George W. Bush is TIME's 2004 Person of the Year"


12.17.2004

Again With the How Great James Wolcott Is
James Wolcott: Bernie, We Hardly Knew Ye: "Weeks ago, I found myself in the green room of a cable show with Ed Koch, Bernard Kerik, and Joe Trippi. I had been looking forward to meeting Trippi, but when I stepped into the room and saw these two other slabs of supreme self-assurance taking up real estate, I figured this wasn't the time for chitchat....Upcoming were the Olympics, and Koch asked Kerik if he thought there might be terrorist trouble. Kerik intoned that the security in Athens, in Greece generally, was very porous, and let the subject drop with a combination of ominous understatement and quiet authority that made me suspect I was in the presence of a champion b-s'er.

Kerik exuded too much quiet authority and dramatic effect, trying a shade too hard to convey that he knew things he couldn't speak of and was working from the deep inside, privy to secrets that he carried locked inside the bank vault of his barrel chest. I could see how this tough-guy shtick--which obviously wasn't entirely shtick, but a tough streak that had been refined into an urban lawman persona--would impress fake swaggarts like, well, George Bush, who likes to play dress-up as a range hand and fighter pilot to show what a Hungry man entree he is. "


12.16.2004

Ye Olde Revolving Door

You can only roll your eyes so many times in one day. Trust me.

The New York Times > Washington > House's Author of Drug Benefit Joins Lobbyists: "Representative Billy Tauzin, a principal author of the new Medicare drug law, will become president of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the chief lobby for brand-name drug companies, the trade group announced Wednesday.
...
Drug makers said that the job was not a reward for Mr. Tauzin's work on the Medicare bill, which followed the industry's specifications in many respects. The law was signed by President Bush on Dec. 8, 2003, a few weeks before a lawyer for Mr. Tauzin began talks with the drug trade group.
...
Mr. Tauzin (pronounced TOE-zan) and Mr. White refused to discuss Mr. Tauzin's new salary, except to say it was comparable to the pay at other large trade associations. People at other trade groups said they believed that Mr. Tauzin would receive $2 million a year or more.
Representative Pete Stark of California, the senior Democrat on the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health, said: 'As a member of Congress, Billy negotiated a large payout to the pharmaceutical industry by the federal government. He's now about to receive one of the largest salaries ever paid to any advocate by an industry.'
Mr. Tauzin wrote large parts of the new Medicare law as chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee and as a member of the conference committee that hashed out differences between the House and the Senate in four months of intense negotiations last year.
The law steers clear of price controls and price regulation, which are anathema to drug companies. The law forbids the government to negotiate with drug manufacturers to secure lower prices for Medicare beneficiaries. "


12.15.2004

(Another) Missile Defense Launch Fails

Follow the discussion thread on DailyKos.

An attempt to launch an interceptor missile as part of the U.S. missile defence shield failed early Wednesday in the first test of the system in nearly two years.

The Missile Defense Agency said the ground-based interceptor automatically shutdown "due to an unknown anomaly" shortly before it was to be launched from Kwajalein Atoll in the central Pacific Ocean [...]

The missile defence shield was meant to be in operation by the end of 2004.

In earlier tests, missile interceptors had a record of five-for-eight in hitting target missiles.

Kos:Note, that five out of eight record was achieved only because the target missile did not have 1) decoys (which are employed by intercontinental ballistic missiles, and 2) the targets had a homing beacon on them.

Wednesday's test had been put of several times because of bad weather, and a malfunction of a recovery vessel not directly related to the equipment being tested, The Associated Press reported.


Don't any of these people remember Real Genius?

REAL GENIUS (1985) is considered by many fans to be their favorite Val Kilmer movie. This movie which tells the story of the legendary whiz kid, Chris Knight, and the neophyte genius, Mitch Taylor, whom Chris takes under his wing while foiling the military's development of a Star Wars-like death weapon, offers something for nearly everyone.
...
In REAL GENIUS, the U.S. military has hired a university physics professor, Jerry Hathaway (William Atherton), in order to use his resources (the lab and the students) to help them develop the latest 'smart' weapon, so as to enable a Star Wars-like defense of the USA. Actually, they want to develop "a peacetime weapon that will upgrade the art of terrorism.
...
In 1983, President Ronald Reagan first proposed what he called the Strategic Defense Initiative (S.D.I.) S.D.I. was born out of the convergence of political crisis and scientific hubris. In the first two years of the Reagan administration, the U.S. redefined its relationship with the Soviet Union and, in the process, produced not only a heightened level of hostility between the two superpowers, but also, a complete stalemate in the slow progress of arms control negotiations that had then been in progress for over a decade. Most of the leading military and foreign policy figures in the administration's early years preferred a confrontational escalation of the arms race, which they believed the USA would win. However, the recession of 1982, along with the emergence of the nuclear freeze movement in Europe and America, and its rapid transformation into a major political force threatened the U.S. agenda. (The nuclear freeze movement in the U.S. became a particular rallying cry for college students, including the Juilliard student, Val Kilmer, whose play "How It All Began" has to be viewed as a seminal piece of work for this time period).

Fearful that budgetary constraints and popular fears would derail the administration's military and foreign policy, a number of Reagan aides began to take an interest in what until then had been a relatively obscure proposal from a small group of important, if somewhat erratic, scientists and university professors. It was a plan for developing a laser-guided, space-based defense against ballistic missiles, and its principal scientific sponsor was Edward Teller, a distinguished physicist, who was also known as a hyperbolic enthusiast for visionary schemes that existed largely in his own imagination. (REAL GENIUS' Professor Hathaway is a dumbed-down Teller). Teller and those who shared his vision talked ecstatically about the new technologies that they claimed were already available to create such a system, and they persuaded many within the administration to go along with the wishful and entirely erroneous idea that effective deployment was within easy reach...unfortunately for them, they had no Chris Knight! Teller's ideas were a godsend to the policymakers and they promoted them fervently. Reagan always presented S.D.I. as an impenetrable barrier that would protect the American people (even though, very early in the research process, almost every scientist understood that at best it would be able to protect only American land-based missiles, not the population). Today, in the year 2000, Ronald Reagan's missile shield project is still alive, though it shows no sign of consciousness. As Chris Knight might say, "would you classify this as a design problem or a launch problem?!"


12.14.2004

Yes, but did he ever use the exact phrase "imminent threat"?

Yahoo! News - Bush Says Social Security Faces 'Looming Danger': "President Bush (news - web sites) said on Saturday Social Security (news - web sites) must be overhauled to avoid a 'looming danger' of insolvency, as he launched a public push for his proposal to add private accounts to the program"


12.10.2004

Upisdownism

Taking on a $2 trillion (*trillion!!*) hit, on or off the books, should never, ever, be referred to as a 'savings.' With the new 'mandate,' I guess lying with impunity has gone a step further into the realm of unreality.

The New York Times > Washington > Bush Says He Won't Raise Taxes for Social Security Overhaul: "If the government was to let people divert part of their payroll taxes to private accounts, the budget deficit would be more than $100 billion a year higher than otherwise and the surpluses in the Social Security trust fund expected over the next 13 years would disappear.
With that in mind, administration officials and Republicans in Congress hint that they are looking at ways to exclude the expected transition costs from the official deficit numbers.
'I wouldn't view anything as a cost,' Mr. McClellan, the president's spokesman, said. 'I would view them as savings.'
Meanwhile, some Republicans who support private savings accounts say it might well be better to raise taxes than to add $2 trillion to the federal debt."


12.06.2004

Hoo Boy

And this is the Pentagon's report on the War on Terror. Sobering.

Sunday Herald: Pentagon report reveals catalogue of failure

“Thus the US has strongly taken sides in a desperate struggle … US policies and actions are increasingly seen by the overwhelming majority of Muslims as a threat to the survival of Islam itself … Americans have inserted themselves into this intra-Islamic struggle in ways that have made us an enemy to most Muslims.

“There is no yearning-to- be-liberated-by-the-US groundswell among Muslim societies … The perception of intimate US support of tyr-annies in the Muslim world is perhaps the critical vulnerability in American strategy. It strongly undercuts our message, while strongly promoting that of the enemy.”

The report says that, in terms of the “information war”, “at this moment it is the enemy that has the advantage”. The US propaganda drive has to focus on “separating the vast majority of non-violent Muslims from the radical- militant Islamist-Jihadist”.

According to the report, “the official take on the target audience [the Muslim world] has been gloriously simple” and divided the Middle East into “good” and “bad Muslims”.

“Americans are convinced that the US is a benevolent ‘superpower’ that elevates values emphasising freedom … deep down we assume that everyone should naturally support our policies. Yet the world of Islam – by overwhelming majorities at this time – sees things differently. Muslims see American policies as inimical to their values, American rhetoric about freedom and democracy as hypocritical and American actions as deeply threatening.

“In two years the jihadi message – that strongly attacks American values – is being accepted by more moderate and non-violent Muslims. This in turn implies that negative opinion of the US has not yet bottomed out


12.03.2004

Return of the Son of the Tortured Analogy

In other news, humans are not analogous to automobiles. Though it's interesting that our pro-SUV administration would try to make such a connection.

Theoretically, Tax Reform Should Fly (washingtonpost.com): "If you want to understand why the Bush administration is pondering eliminating the tax deduction for employer-provided health insurance, consider this year's Economic Report of the President. There, White House economists assert that the deduction unfairly subsidizes employees of some companies while encouraging overly generous health policies that focus on routine medical care.
'If automobile insurance were structured like the typical health policy, it would cover annual maintenance, tire replacement, and possibly even car washes,' said the report, concluding that 'health insurance markets can be improved . . . [to] focus on large expenditures that are truly the result of unforeseen circumstance' and 'to provide a more standardized tax treatment of all health care markets.'
...
Critics say the White House's theoretical arguments may fly in the face of empirical evidence. They argue that health care, for instance, is fundamentally different from auto care: If insurance does not motivate to get routine checkups, the ultimate cost to the health care system of treating late-stage cancer is far higher then replacing a transmission. And while the business deduction for health insurance costs may violate some standard textbook tenets, said Austan Goolsbee, an economist at the University of Chicago, consider the alternatives. "


Cashing in Some Chips

Fred Kaplan's got some intriguing background on our new head of Homeland Security. The basic thrust of which is that Kerik may not be qualified for the job, which he probably got as a result of Giuliani's pushing for it. Hardly encouraging stuff.

...Kerik was no longer in office when the NYPD started mounting its intensive effort toward preventing and fighting terrorism. That campaign was jump-started by Raymond Kelly, the commissioner named by Giuliani's successor, Mike Bloomberg. If President Bush had wanted to hire a city cop with broad and deep experience at homeland security, Kelly would have been his man—but, alas, Kelly has worked for too many Democrats. He was police commissioner in David Dinkins' final year as mayor (when, most people forget, crime started to creep down). He was undersecretary of treasury, in charge of border security, under President Clinton. In his first two days on the job under Bloomberg, he set up a counterterrorism division; hired David Cohen, a 35-year CIA veteran, to run the shop; and lavished the operation with piles of department money.

The second question—Kerik's time in Baghdad—is a more mysterious matter, but from what's known about it, still more dismaying. In mid-May 2003, the Defense Department gave Kerik a $140,000-a-year contract to go train the new Iraqi police force. He told reporters, "I will be there at least six months—until the job is done." He came back to New York in early September, a little more than three months later, just as the insurgency began to grow, saying, "Everything that had to be done that I could possibly do, it was done."

Whatever Kerik did, it wasn't much. The Iraqi police forces were—and still are—notoriously ill-trained and ill-equipped for the gigantic challenges they face. It's not clear why Kerik left earlier than scheduled. By all accounts, he was a wash-out. One Pentagon official who was in Baghdad at the time calls Kerik's tenure "notably unspectacular." His tenure did produce some grist for scandal. Members of Iraq's interim governing council expressed loud dismay that Kerik spent $1.2 billion to train 35,000 Iraqi police in Jordan. More annoying still was his decision to buy from Jordan 20,000 Kalashnikov rifles, 50,000 revolvers, and 10 million rounds of ammunition, when he could have rounded up all those weapons far more cheaply—if not for free—from the disbanded Iraqi army.


12.02.2004

Let's Not Call it Favoritism

NY Times :Bush Apppoints Kerik as new Homeland Security Czar
Republicans with ties to the White House said they also expected Tommy Thompson, the secretary of health and human services, to announce his resignation within days, most likely to be replaced by Mark McClellan, the administrator of the Medicare and Medicaid programs.

Instead, let's call it nepotism. McClellan is the brother of that other famous White House McClellan, Scott. He's Bush's Press Secretary.


Putting the Tape in the VCR

Hrm, this is a pretty good analogy for Bush's insistence in 'staying on message' (a euphemism for repeating a few broad generalities ad nauseaum), but I think it could get better. "Pressing play"? "Broken record"? I dunno. But it's out there for the taking, somewhere.

washingtonpost.com: Next Question: "Bush has held 16 solo news conferences, compared to 43 for Bill Clinton, 84 for George H.W. Bush and 26 for Ronald Reagan at this point in their presidencies, according to research by Martha Joynt Kumar of Towson University.
These sessions are a contest between Bush's desire to repeat his previously articulated views ('sticking a tape in the VCR,' as one frequent Bush questioner puts it), and the reporters' quest to elicit something that will contribute to democracy, not to mention getting them on television or the front page."


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