Thursday, June 30, 2005

Bush v. Bush

"Victory means exit strategy, and it's important for the President to explain to us what the exit strategy is." -- Governor George W. Bush

Yes, Gov. Bush. "It is important for the President to explain to us what the exit strategy is" indeed.

More here.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Conservatism, Wars of Aggression, and Economics

Before [1990], "race-baiting" referred to racists. Afterward, it referred [...] to people who oppose racism.

I'm not going to comment much, here. You can find the full paper on the UCLA's website.

I did not believe, only a little while ago, in the assumptions made here. Certainly i understood the similarities between the Conservative movement, but i did not understand the direct heritage it had in aristocracy. Lately, however, i have been paying more attention--now the "Aristocrats" makes up one of the three pillars (alongside "theocrats" and "corporatists") in my Republican Party analysis--and have come to change my mind.

Let me give you a real-world example to illustrate the article's accuracy.

Aristocracy thrives on deference, but direct deference to a person is seen as vile--at least by some--and people balk at that sort of setup. So instead, taking Walmart as an example, we now have deference to institutions and corporations. This deference to Walmart as a corporation, especially by its employees, manifests in one of the many rules about behavior: when travelling on the company dollar all employees are to travel coach, stay in the cheapest motel rooms possible, and if more than one employee is travelling at a time to stay in the same room. The stated reason is to save money--and this is, indeed, what the practice accomplishes. In a show of "good faith", though, even the executives follow this practice. The implication being that the deference is to the corporation--putting the good of the corporation above your own--and not to some group of aristocrats.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

In order to understand why you must consider where the money goes. The benefits of this practice are savings and those savings go somewhere--but where? Not, certainly, to the Walmart employees. Not, contrary to what a person might guess, to the customer. They go to the same place all savings in an entrenched corporatist/aristocratic organization go: to the organization itself and to those who control the organization. Those who control the organization, not coincidentally i assure you, are also often those who own the organization. Those same executives who submit to the same cheap travel accomodations are not submitting to the same effects--in fact, they get it better despite what you might intuitively believe (that being that they have it worse because they give up more). They get their slice of the savings--and at the least, they get their slice first and before the employees at-large--and even their own cheap accomodations turns into cash for them. However, the employees gain nothing directly from this bargain. So even though it might appear as though the situation is a case of collective sacrifice for the good of the whole the situation actually is a collective sacrifice for the good of the top few percent--the aristocrats.

In fact, even if this situation did not exist to enrich the already fabulously wealthy it would still not be a situation of collective sacrifice for the good of the whole. Collective sacrifice for the good of the whole would look more like employees getting the money saved back in their paychecks. Even at best this is collective sacrifice for the good of the corporation--not inherently problematic, but certainly not very good for the employees.


A political cartoon
For those who don't know, the Washington Post wrote in respones to the Downing Street Minutes that they were not news because everyone already knew everything they contained--importantly, though the WP carefully avoided mention, the DSM proving that Bush had decided to go to war prior to figuring out a reason and also that he in fact began that war prior to recieving congressional authorization. This is bullshit. First of all, this is proof--positive evidence and not mere speculation. Secondly it is certainly not something "everyone" new, and certainly not something the news was reporting on. Thirdly, i think perhaps the largest shocker of all: it implies the Washington Post knew the war was a fraud from the very start and probably before but pretended it was legitimate. That, if true, would be treason so far as i'm concerned. In the real definition of the word.


Finally: i'm going to tackle an issue of economics.

Recently i've heard a lot of talk from the usual suspects--those same aristocrats mentioned above, in fact--about how we must all sacrifice for the good of the corporation for if we don't we will be incapable of competing on the global stage. Specifically, and this should not surprise you, they are saying wages are too high and that minimum wage hurts companies' (especially the much-praised but more or less ignored "small business") ability to compete with companies that get their labor from India or China or various other places.

It should not be a surprise that i think this is bullshit.

Let me start out my exlanation with a truism: America cannot compete with India or China strictly in terms of wages without sacrificing a great deal of its prosperity.

Oh sure, the elites--the corporatists and the aristocrats and probably the theocrats also--will do fine as they always do. Better than ever, i'm sure, as debt-slavery (born into life with the debt of your parents, never work it off, pass it on to your children) would be a great boon to them. But the sort of prosperity people associate with America? Gone. No science, no technology, no infrastructure. Nothing. America would look, in a generation or two, like China.

China has a comparative advantage in terms of strict dollars-per-hour cost of their labor. If we try to compete with them we will literally be giving up every advantage we have in order that we could be still-not-really competetive with them in terms of strict dollar-per-hour cost of labor.

In other words, we're trying to make our weakness equal their strength. In terms of strategy: the absolute worst thing we could do.

In fact: i believe the corporate "rush to the bottom" on wages has only hurt--and in no way helped--the corporations. Of course, it has enriched the aristocrats and corporatists and that was the real goal all along.

So how, precisely, does America stay on top? I don't actually know.

Yeah, it's a tricky problem and i don't have a clear solution. Some people have suggested technology is the key--but technology is, i think, precisely the opposite of the key. Technology as a comparative advantage against China, for instance, would be very short-lived due to the low cost-of-reproduction of the post-industrial technology level. And it's only going to get worse for us. Eventually, if we try to play up technology, we would end up only one step ahead of China--at best--while they wait for us to take a step and then copy it. Even if those were big steps (such as the ones taken over the last hundred years or so) that will only make a certain amount of difference. China, and the rest of the world, could easily replicate them since we would no longer have our infrastructure advantage. That's not to say i think technology is useless--we're talking about improving the quality of life, in theory, worldwide and vastly so. But it is not the key to continued economic dominance of the United States.

I think science and information (not domination of information through copyright or suchlike but rather creation of information) are the best hopes, but that might be my personal bias.

On a smaller scale, let's take a look at Tim Pawlenty's Minnesota. Tim Pawlenty inherited a wealthy state that, according to the Accepted Republican Narrative, should have been a run-down Communist-Lite mish-mash of unemployed people standing in line for food stamps and business fleeing elsewhere. Of course, instead he got a wealthy state--one of the wealthiest in the nation per-capita--with a moderately successful welfare system and a vast array of powerful public services. The thriving--re-invigorated, even--economy was just the cherry on top of the smashing of the conventional wisdom.

But Pawlenty was going to change all that. He made a "no new taxes" pledge (he's one of the GNC--Grover Norquist's Chosen) and, by God, he was going to keep it even if it meant destroying Minnesota. In the interest of gaining "competetive advantage" with respect to taxes (Minnesota does have high taxes and this certainly does discourage at least some business) he slashed taxes and turned a record-level budget surplus into a record-level budget deficit. His regressive "fee" scam (he had to do something to save Minnesota from fiscal insolvency so he raised all "fees" and introduced new ones--this turned out to be essentially a tax on being poor) has only exacerbated the problem by hurting the lower and middle class. The "fees" reduce the ability of the poor to gain assistance, which reduces their ability to pay the fees, which turns into a damned death-spiral that sends Minnesota further into budget-deficit Hell.

But despite all that, the businesses that were staying away from Minnesota because of taxes still stayed away (at least, in terms of any meaningful scale) because Minnesota still was not competetive with well over half the nation strictly in terms of taxes. And it never will be unless it first gives up its great advantages.

Monday, June 20, 2005

To be a Conservative, you must believe...

So i saw this while reading that paragon of heterosexuality, Jesus's General, and wondered what would happen if you inverted it. Curiously enough, i think it's more accurate that way. I swapped out some euphemisms for others, too, to counteract propaganda-by-word-choice. With a little of my own, perhaps, but can you blame me? Onwards!

That the AIDS virus is spread by a lack of morality--as long as you are "moral" you are safe.

That trial lawyers are all pond scum but doctors are underpaid.

That global temperatures are affected more by cyclical changes in the earth's climate and the brilliance of the sun than the documented effects of yuppies driving SUVs (among other things).

That guns in the hands of the law abiding Americans are more of a threat
than nuclear weapons in the hands of the Red Chinese.

This one doesn't work. Primarily because of non-binary cognitive dissonance and the fact that the Republicans more or less support nuclear China. Shrug.

That corporatism creates prosperity and democracy creates oppression.

That it doesn't matter who you step on as long as you "achieve".

That federal funding is useless.

That the ACLU is bad because it stands up for certain parts of the Constitution, but that the NRA is good because it stands up for certain parts of the Constitution.
(As an aside: i would harsh on the NRA less if they would at least care about an entire amendment rather than the half of the one they like...)

That taxes are too high. Period.

That there is no problem with children praying in school. Period.

That there is no such thing as systematic discrimination. Period.
(Except, of course, when it comes to discriminating against white people.)

That consistent, planetary change in weather patterns is everything other than proof of global warming.
("Ice caps and glaciers melting for the first time in millenia? Must be the sun!")

That national wealth is determined by what we consume, not by what we
produce.

This one, again, seems to be a Republican position that got in there by mistake. See: Pres. Bush's "Everything is okay! Make sure you keep consuming like rabid dogs!" speech after 9/11.

That the only wars in which America should become involved, are those in
which our national security is not at risk.

I'd say this is another Republican position, but it should go even farther: "That you've never met a war you didn't like". At least, that's true as long as they don't have to do the fighting, as per the link above.

That lying to the nation in order to lead it into war is less of an issue about a blowjob. That a concerted, decades-long effort to destroy a politician and his family is okay--as long as it's a Democrat.

That we can have a strong military while the people who shout the loudest in favor of going to war are the least willing to enlist.

That the way to improve public schools is to take all their money away and give it to private, Christian schools.

That a woman cannot choose whether to have a child or not. Period. And if she does? Don't expect any help from the state in the way of public resources.

That care for the environment is only legitimate when the person doing the caring meets the Republican Moral Standards (that is: white, lives in a red state, and engages in Traditional Manly Activities like hunting and fishing.) Ad Hominem attacks only matter if you're a Democrat.

That you have money to spend and if you don't it's your own fault.

That Hillary Clinton is evil. Period.

That being a movie star means your views on politics are illegitimate. Unless your views align with the Republican party, of course.

That the people who bombed the Oklahoma city building don't matter. Neither do the people who destroyed the WTC. The real threat was a toothless old tyrant who posed no direct threat (unlike Bin Laden and friends) to the United States.

That directly targetting children with highly addictive and deadly products is equivalent to showing a nipple on TeeVee.

That crime can be stopped by throwing people in jail after-the-fact.
(Okay, not really a direct inversion... sue me...)

That the only reason fascism and Stalinism hasn't worked anywhere it has been tried is because people were using the wrong definition of "worked".
(Commentary on the original: huh? Do these people live on Planet Earth?)

That because people are not perfect (or not willing to pretend they are) they shouldn't even bother trying.

That gender roles are the absolute, inviolable Will of God but that everyone is naturally bisexual and they must choose to be heterosexual--or else!

(Alternatively: That heterosexuality is the absolute, inviolable Will of God except for people who choose to be otherwise.)

That life is sacred if and only if it lives within a woman.

That Strom Thurmond, Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, Pat Buchanan, and Rev. Dobson are the paragons of American Virtue.

That the First Amendment is an Evil Liberal Myth and that all the founders were Christian and wanted Christianity (your particular brand, specifically) as the officially entrenched religion of America. That people ought not have right to speech or assembly if they are unpopular or considered "bad". Only Republican opinions on popularity or goodness should be counted.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Fear on the Eve of Victory...

I haven't been posting for a while, i guess, but stuff is just going too fast for me to really keep up on. I have about two hundred links sitting in my "current links" folder and some of them go quite a ways back. I'm not really sure why i haven't posted much lately, don't think it has to do with the title--but then again, maybe it does. I've also been meaning to write on "how the Democrats can win the same sex marriage debate", but that also hasn't been happening. I'd better hurry up, too! I don't want 2006 to pass me by.

But without further ado...

Fear on the Eve of Victory

Kind of a strange phrase, perhaps. But, i think, appropriate. The "eve of victory" refers to the coming backlash against the Bush Administration and the Republicans--especially those of the "neo" or "movement" variety. It might be curious to consider this the "eve of victory", but consider it hope on my part. I'm gazing into my crystal ball tonight.

The fear might also seem unusual if we first assume victory is at hand, but i fear that victory will not be a victory for us--those who have stood for the truth of the Bush Administration and especially the war in Iraq from long before it was popular, those who have agitated for change and improvement. Those who might drive Bush out of office with the bludgeon of truth and justice might find themselves on the end of the sword of retribution, the pitchfork of mob justice, and the torch that burns effigies if not actual people. I am talking, of course, about a repeat of the villification of the anti-war crowd of Vietnam. I am talking about another round of "Swift Boat Veterans for Recovered Memory Therapy" who are angry the US lost the war and, instead of blaming those with whom the blame lies, they blame people they disagree with who dared ot speak the truth when it was unpopular and who dared to open the eyes of others to the truth.

I fear, my readers, for the day when the proverbial party (possibly the literal Party of the Republican Party) is over and the Republican machine looks at itself in the mirror--if ever so briefly--and suddenly has an overwhelming need to find a scapegoat. I am neither the only nor the first person to think this. They (and by "they" i mean "failed fascists, stalinists, corporatists, theocrats, war-mongerers, and would-be aristocrats") have blamed their own failures on those who have pointed out their failings before and will do it again--in fact, all of history is chock full of this... no time, save the relatively recent last few hundred years, has ever been even remotely free of it. If US history, especially Vietnam War-era history, is any lesson they can easily succeed at it.

They believe those who stand for freedom instead stand against them personally. They believe those who stand for justice instead stand against them. They believe those who stand for America instead stand against them. And they are willing to spend millions--if not billions--of dollars convincing everyone else the same thing. They have succeeeded before and they can succeed now, even despite the gravity of their crimes. Never before have they been so close to the total power they crave, never have they been so intoxicated and addicted to it, and never have they been willing to stoop so low to maintain it. The question is not "will they seek retribution when they lose it?" but rather "how far will they go?"

I was worried the post-2004 election triumphalism would dissolve into riots in the street or violence against the "unbelievers"--those few who stood out against the tide of Bush in their own communities--and was relieved that did not come to pass. But we are, again, facing that prospect and a thousand times more serious. We are not just talking about impeaching a President: we are talking about shatterring the twisted-mirror world view of millions and they will not thank us for it. But it must be done if the Union is to remain the land of the Free.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Suppose...

Suppose you went to an ATM machine to do some cash transfers.

Suppose the machine, instead of confirming, merely printed a cryptic message: "Are we having fun yet?"

Suppose the machine then refused to print you a reciept.

Suppose you then called your bank and they said that was just normal bugs in the machine and there was nothing they could do about it, no way to check to see if anything went wrong, and no reason to worry. Suppose they refused to even check up on it.

Suppose that, instead of an ATM machine and cash transfer, we're talking a Presidential Election.

Why do people seem to think that situation is unacceptable up until the last line and fine after that?