Thursday, December 23, 2004

The Past That's Worth Remembering

by Rich Miles

Dec. 23, 2004

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”

Remember that quote? I promise not to use it for every column I write, but it just seems to work for so many occasions. So here’s the scoop:

I have a rather extensive collection in book form of Doonesbury cartoons. They go all the way back to 1971, and in rare moments of leisure, I like to read them over again from time to time, just to see what was going on back then. Recently, I found a collection entitled “Doonesbury Dossier: The Reagan Years”, and since I had previously (before 2001) held the belief that Ronald Reagan was, by and large, the worst thing that had ever happened to this country, I thought it might be instructive to take a look at what Garry Trudeau thought of him when Reagan was a current issue. Trudeau is not what one would call an exhaustive source of historical accuracy, but he does have a gift for catching the gist of history in those four daily panels.

So anyway, guess what I found out? I discovered that the same sorts of things that George W. Bush is doing today, which is to say rolling back decades of social progress, plunging the nation into staggering levels of debt that will last for years if not decades, and an almost breathtaking ability to simply ignore reality and the will of the American people, were all hallmarks of that previous administration as well. In other words, we don’t remember history as recently as 20 or so years ago, and so we’re bloody well repeating it.

Now, if your reaction to the above was a resounding “Well, duh!”, then I am sorry to report that you have just wasted a minute or so reading material that was not intended for you. No, the people I am speaking to in the above paragraphs are those unrepentant and unbendable right-wing partisans who, even in the face of overwhelming evidence that their president is either a criminal or a nitwit or both, will still say that W is “a great man, a real American, our only hope for the future”, and blah blah blah. What does it take for you to see it? Does he, as Trudeau once posited about Nixon, have to knock over a bank before we will acknowledge that he and his minions are inexorably dismantling our country with the left hand, while the right hand waves a flag and the mouth says “terrorist threat” one more stinkin’ time?

I’m about to run out of words for this column, so let me give you the “button line” for next time: As I already copped to last week, I am indeed a liberal Democrat. If W were a fairly decent Republican president (an oxymoron to my way of thinking), I still probably wouldn’t like him, but I wouldn’t be this rabid about him. The genuine hideousness of this administration goes beyond partisan politics – and the whole point of this blog, for me, is to keep illustrating why.

Friday, December 17, 2004

The Robbery Continues

By Rich Miles

Dec. 17, 2004

Dear Bush Voters:

I have a question for you. It’s a sincere question, not meant to be a “wise-guy” remark, or anything like that. I really want to know this.

What is it going to take for you to recognize that George W. Bush and his cronies are embarked on the most profound redistribution of wealth in history, and that this redistribution is almost exclusively UPWARD?

I mean seriously – how much of your money, and your children’s money is he going to have to take away from you and give to people who are already obscenely wealthy before you start to notice? How long can he say, “It’s your money, not the government’s money” before you notice that he’s not talking to you, he’s talking to corporate CEO’s, and his friends in the oil business, and large Wall Street brokers, and other folks who already have most of our money anyway?

Bush has just completed a two-day economic summit at which he discussed ways to take even more of your money from you, while continuing to tell you that he’s doing this for your own good. In the Bush speeches which emanated from the summit, at least two major initiatives were outlined: so-called “tort reform”, and Social Security reform. So let’s look at those for a minute:

First, tort reform: in essence new laws that would eliminate large monetary awards for corporate and medical errors. Bush has said repeatedly that this is a necessary reform to help keep medical costs down. But large malpractice awards have been shown to contribute less than 1.5% to the record increases in the rise of medical costs in the past four years. So who benefits if these laws are put on the books?

Why, large corporations of course. The ones that run huge medical, or pharmaceutical, or any other corporate megaliths. The ones who are already obscenely wealthy and who under the first Bush administration have become more so. The people and companies who will no longer have to worry about multimillion dollar payments to people they’ve harmed. The people who will see the occasional $250,000 or so fine or jury award as simply a cost of doing business, but will do little or nothing to correct the error that caused the harm in the first place, because there’s no financial incentive to do so. And so the harm will continue.

Next, Social Security reform – the much-touted “private investment accounts”, which sound so attractive to us free-spirited, rugged individualist Americans, until we look closer and see who will benefit most from them: not us, who will be at the mercy of the markets for our retirement benefits, but two main groups: employers (large and small), who will pay less to the SocSec system, and stockbrokers, who will receive their commissions and account maintenance fees whether the market goes up or down. Do you really feel competent to run a stock trading account, on the success of which your life may literally depend one day?

But when these questions are asked, there are two more or less standard responses: first, the questioner is engaging in “partisan politics”, which generally means you disagree with anything Bush says, or you’re promoting “class warfare”, which generally means you care more about the poor, the sick, the old and the victims of corporate greed than you do about CEO’s and huge corporations. So the question never gets answered, and the robbery continues.

And let’s not even get into tax cuts for the wealthy, and massive federal deficits that will take decades to pay off, thus making them your children’s debts.

So again, I really want to know: what is it going to take for you to realize that George W. Bush is robbing you? And what will you be willing to do about it when the light comes on?

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Tossing Around Big Numbers

By Rich Miles

Dec. 12, 2004

"A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you're talking real money."
- attributed (probably wrongly) to Sen. Everett Dirksen

The famous quote from the late Sen. Everett Dirksen (R-Illinois), which as it turns out he probably didn't say, nevertheless illustrates something that the recent presidential campaign said about Americans: many of us aren’t very good at math.

During the campaign, President Bush said, on a tiresome number of occasions, that Senator Kerry’s proposals for new spending would cost more than $2 trillion, which, as he pointed out, “is a lot even for a liberal senator from Massachusetts”. The line always got applause.

However, the President repeatedly failed to mention that the same folks who made that estimate about Kerry’s proposals also pointed out that Bush’s new spending proposals, coupled with his tax cuts, would cost somewhere in the vicinity of $3 trillion. Kerry’s failure to make that point stick was one of the many reasons he lost the election, but that’s a discussion for another time.

But let’s look at the use of numbers in the public discourse for a minute, in a way that we “average Americans” can understand:

Let’s set the average annual income in America at $40,000. It’s not accurate, in fact is probably quite high, but just for the sake of argument, let’s use that round number.

A Stealth fighter/bomber plane – just one of them – costs about $60 million dollars (by Lockheed’s 1988 estimate). That’s 1500 annual salaries’ worth, per copy, and we bought at least 67 of them.

The recently-disclosed “secret” plan to launch a new spy satellite, one that most experts agree isn’t needed and in fact is useless except in cloudless daylight, is estimated at $9.5 billion dollars. That’s 237,500 salaries.

And the startup costs of the “privatization” of Social Security, lowball-estimated at $1 trillion, represents 25,000,000 average annual salaries. That’s 25 million, for those who don’t care to count the zeros.

One commentator, David Brooks in the New York Times, fired off, as the unsubstantiated potential Social Security shortfall over the next several decades, $11 trillion – or the entire average salaries, at our imagined $40,000 a year, of 275 million people! That’s not far short of the entire current population of the United States, including under-12-year-olds who contribute precious little to the tax base.

And the cost of George W. Bush’s FIVE tax cuts in the past 4 years (over 95% of them going to corporations and wealthy individuals) is just under $1 trillion over the next decade – another 25 million salaries.

So my question is, are your minds as boggled as mine is by the above numbers? If so, good, because that's what the guys who use these big numbers want to happen.

But let me give you some more numbers: in 1969, the year Sen. Dirksen died, total federal spending including Social Security was $187 billion dollars, and we were in a war in Vietnam. The federal budget showed a small surplus of $3.2 billion that year.

In 2003, total federal spending, NOT including Social Security, was $2.16 TRILLION. That’s an increase of 1174%, over a period of time when inflation added about 5% per year on average, or, if compounded, less than 200% to the overall cost of living. Democrats held the presidency for only twelve of those 34 years, and were a majority in Congress during the only five years of the 34 in which there were balanced or surplus budgets.

So now, two more questions: do we have a little clearer idea of how much money a trillion dollars is? And do we know who the party of “fiscal responsibility” is?

You do the math.

Friday, December 10, 2004

A Clarification for the Math-Challenged

by Rich Miles

Dec. 10, 2004

On Dec. 10, a letter writer took one of our local columnists to task for actually expressing an opinion in his opinion column of Dec. 7, saying that supporters of the Fairness Ordinance (and by extension, opponents of the anti-gay hate campaign locally and nationally) obviously hadn't "heard the voice of the electorate" on Nov. 2. Apparently, columnists are only allowed to express "warm and fuzzy" opinions, and when they get into saying what they believe about a controversial topic of importance to our city and country, some folk feel the need to try to cut him off at the knees. But that's not why I'm writing this - that columnist is a big guy, a REALLY big guy, and can defend himself.

What I want to say here is...well...I mean really...this "the people have spoken" and "Bush has a mandate" crap simply has to stop. Since it seems that a lot of people are merely repeating what they've heard elsewhere and don't actually understand what they're saying, let me offer some facts about this matter for the mathematically challenged:

The surface-noise word these days is that George W. Bush won the election by a popular-vote margin of 51-48% over John Kerry. However, the truth (as displayed by among other sources) is that Bush received 50.7%, and Kerry received 48.3% - a margin of 2.4%, not the 3% in the surface-level numbers. That's a significant 20% reduction in the margin between the two major party candidates.

However, even the most innumerate among us will note that these numbers do not add up to 100%. Third-party candidates nationwide represented a total of 1% of the vote. So in the final count, 49.3% of all Americans who voted for a presidential candidate voted AGAINST Bush. His final total was a margin of 1.4% of the popular vote, less than one-half of the 3% Republicans have been crowing about since the day after the election. This represents 1.8 million voters, not 3.7 million as stated after November 2, a reduction of 50% in that margin of victory. Add to this the fact that only about 60% of eligible voters actually bestirred themselves to vote, and the high rate of voting "irregularities" that remain unresolved nationwide, and it turns out that Bush got at most the votes of about 30% of voting-age Americans, and about 20% of all Americans of all ages.

How any of this, even the largest of the above numbers, amounts to a mandate is a logical leap that simply boggles the mind.

In truth, far from receiving a mandate, he barely squeaked by, and there are some indications that he didn't really even do as well as he seems to have done. However, barring a miracle, it appears we're going to inaugurate him again anyway.

But if people like that letter writer think that Americans who disagree with Bush and his policies are just going to lay down and die because he and they keep shouting "Mandate! The people have spoken!", they've got a major surprise in store. We still think he's wrong whether he won the election or not, and we're still going to do all we can to thwart him in his misguided attempts to dismantle the America we know and love. So get off your high horse. We're not buying.

And besides, vox populi was never vox dei, and most assuredly isn't now.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

The Other, Our Enemy

The Other, Our Enemy

By Richard Hauenstein
Dec. 7, 2004

The people must believe that they are not manipulated in order for them to be manipulated effectively.
- Winston Smith, “1984”

You want the truth? You can’t handle the truth!

- Jack Nicholson, “A Few Good Men”

As I write this, it’s Pearl Harbor Day - the sixty-third commemoration of what used to be the worst sneak attack ever perpetrated on American military forces and civilians. That is, until those bloodthirsty, freedom-hating, anti-American, non-Christian Al Qaeda fanatics turned a beautiful late summer day into the rallying point for our national hatred of all things Muslim, Arab or Middle Eastern. But we’ve always had someone to hate, haven’t we? It’s part of our national make-up, in fact it’s part of being human.

Back in 1990, around the time of the collapse of the Soviet Union, I read an article by a sociologist on the topic of “the universal other”. He (I think it was a he ) said that every society had to have a common enemy that could be used by that society’s leaders to keep the people under control – to distract the people from what the leaders were doing by making them fear the “other”. He went down a long list, all the way back to the Pharaohs of Egypt and their use of the Israelites for this purpose. If the Egyptians could hate a common enemy, they would be less likely to notice that the Pharaohs were robbing the common people of their substance, and living a life that the people couldn’t even aspire to.

The author included as examples of his theme the Romans and their subjugation of “barbarians”, Napoleon’s dream of world conquest, the British Empire’s appeal to King and country in subjugating people of color all over the world, Hitler’s use of the Jews (again) as the source of all post-WWI ills in Germany; and the author expressed concern that, since the Soviet Union could no longer be used to frighten children in the West, a new “Other” would have to be found to keep us in line. And he surmised that this new enemy would be – the Arabs.

As history shows us, less than a year later, the Gulf War (now called the First Gulf War – how sad that we continue to number our wars) initiated America’s overt war against the Arab nation of Iraq. As opposed to the West’s extremely long covert war in the same region.

In fact, history shows us something else as well: in the 228 years of the Republic, America has almost never been without an Other, to hate and fear, to unite us as a nation, and to use as a distraction from what has happened and is happening to our country from within.

In the beginning, the Other was England. Then, Indians became bloody savages who tried to keep us from fulfilling our manifest destiny, even before the term was invented. Then, with some overlap, it was African slaves, southern rebels, Indians again, Germany in two world wars, Japan in one, a long stint with the Soviet Union, and Vietnam and Red China thrown in for good measure.

And now, it’s the Arabs again, as we spread freedom throughout the Middle East one Iraqi corpse at a time.

Now, it’s true that many of these Others attacked us, though if the truth be known, only one of the above did so unprovoked – Japan, 63 years ago today. While I am in no way defending what was done to America on Sept. 11, a dispassionate reader of history would have to say that it was not an unprovoked attack from any but the shortest of short-term perspectives.

And if one can in fact do such an unemotional read, an interesting, almost counter-intuitive fact emerges from the welter of information: from 1991, when the Soviet Union fell and the First Gulf War ended, until Sept. 11, 2001, the world was not in perfect apple-pie order, I don’t mean to suggest any such ludicrous thing – but what is almost unarguable is that, after the fall of the Soviet Union, and before the rise of Islamic terror in its current form, we had no discernible common enemy against which to unite. In fact, on many levels our former enemies of the last half of the 20th century, Russia and Japan and Germany, became our friends and trading partners.

The overall net result of this unprecedented era of agreement between major nations was one of the most prosperous times in the history of mankind, at least for the Western nations. America built up unprecedented budget surpluses, the stock market went to all-time highs, the global economy came into being and began to flourish, and it looked like the national debt was going to approach zero some time in the near future. We had enemies, of course – but we didn’t live under a daily cloud of fear that, even in the heartland of the country, we could be attacked at any minute. Based on results, this relatively fear-free atmosphere was a positive influence on America.

And so, to bring this short history lesson to a close, I pose two questions for your consideration: Do we really need an “Other” to unite us in hatred? And will we ever be grown up enough as a nation, or as a species, to live without one?

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Amend THIS, Pal!

by Rich Miles

November 27, 2004

There’s a very fuzzy line between elected officials’ duty to serve the needs of their constituents, and political cowardice and pandering. We’ve seen many folks in the elected classes cross that line recently, but never has the leaping back and forth been more evident or more egregious than in the arena of federal constitutional amendments.

In the past year, we’ve heard calls for amendments to our nation’s most sacred document on gay marriage and a repeal of a portion of Article 2 which requires that a candidate for president be native-born. A proposal from 1978 to give the District of Columbia genuine representation in Congress never passed, and it wasn’t too long ago that an amendment to prohibit flag-burning was being bandied about. And who remembers the ill-fated Equal Rights Amendment, first proposed in 1923 to make women legally equal to men, and which most recently wandered about in search of ratification for more than ten years before finally dying an ignominious and unheralded death?

Constitutional amendments require a 2/3 vote of both houses of Congress, plus ratification by the legislatures of ¾ of the states. In a Congress with a 54-46 party split in one house, 55-45 in the other, and in at least 38 state legislatures, we expect a level of bipartisan agreement that high on ANY issue, much less such emotionally-charged ones as gay marriage? I don’t think so.

So since it’s so unlikely that any of the current proposals will become law, let’s look at the noisiest ones currently gaining attention: leaving aside the institutionalized discrimination inherent in a federal anti-gay marriage amendment, let’s consider the flag-burning amendment, and the native-born amendment.

The flag-burning amendment was abandoned in part because it was discovered that burning was the method of choice of the American Legion for disposing of an old or damaged flag, and thus that people could have been arrested on federal charges simply for doing what the American Legion recommended.

The Article 2 proposal is really rather silly – it’s designed to aid ONE person: Arnold Schwarzenegger, who for some reason some people would like to see in the White House. It would, if passed, benefit others eventually, but in real terms, the only other person currently in national politics who would gain from it is Democratic Governor Jennifer Granholm of Michigan, who was born Canadian.

That is, unless Henry Kissinger decided to run. Now there’s a scary thought.

You know the last time we amended the Constitution? In 1992, when the 27th Amendment was passed, requiring that there be an election between Congress voting itself a pay raise and the raise taking effect, so as to minimize conflict of interest. But Congress has gotten around the Constitution by voting themselves “COLA’s” almost every single year, because they’re not – technically – pay raises. Before that, it was 1971, when we gave 18-year-olds the vote, in an unsuccessful attempt to get anti-war demonstrators to believe they were part of the process, and thus get them off the streets.

The fact is that none of the current proposals for amending the Constitution are going to pass – and the people who author the proposals know that. The Framers deliberately made it hard to amend, in order to achieve the very goal it’s now achieving – to keep silly and dangerous laws off the books.

So don’t be fooled that your lawmakers are bravely standing up for principle when they say they favor a constitutional amendment on anything. It doesn’t require much political courage to stand up and shout for something you know is never going to happen, and in fact it usually offers an opportunity to attack your opponents when the plan falls apart. In that area, we are well-supplied with thousands of federal and state legislators across our country who lack political courage. In fact, I begin to believe it’s a requirement for the job.

Friday, November 05, 2004

Memo to: Red States

by Rich Miles
November 5, 2004

One of the things I've believed for a long time is that in political campaigns, Democrats tend to be far too polite. Among many other examples, as some of you may recall, in 2000, Al Gore just stood there on the debate stage while W repeated yet AGAIN that stupid lie about Gore having claimed to have invented the Internet, and Gore never challenged him on it there or elsewhere, because to do so he would have had to call W a liar. We Blue-staters don't like being rude, so we try to avoid such confrontational direct statements. John Kerry missed, or perhaps didn't even see, many opportunities to slip in the rapier and twist, once in the debates saying in effect that he doesn't use the "L" word - liar, despite its being the precise mot just at the time (it means the "right word" in - gasp! - FRENCH). His much-remarked New England reserve, in matters religious and elsewise, cost him the election in a nation increasingly dominated by the moral equivalent of snake-handling, speaking-in-tongues cultists. And the direct result of all our good breeding and manners is that we are currently living in a theocracy every bit as frightening as anything the Iran ayatollahs or Sunni imams could possibly cook up. If any of you think W's appeal in his acceptance speech to "all Americans", even those who voted against him, lasted longer than it took him to walk off the stage and smirk, you probably also believe in the Easter Bunny (a pagan symbol of fertility, from...oh, never mind).

So no more being polite: at the literal risk of at least my peaceful enjoyment of my home, and possibly, considering that you have more guns than we do, my freedom or my life, herewith some hard truths that the man who tried so hard to save the country from itself either would not or could not set forth in a way that you in the Red states could understand:

1) You know that "Eastern intellectual elite" you so scorn, the ones you think are too big for their britches, a bunch of eggheads who use big words you don't understand, and try to make you think but only manage to make your head hurt, and just don't "know", much less believe in, the One True God? There is a reason such people are known as an "intellectual" elite (the eastern part is a misnomer - we're everywhere, but mostly on the two coasts): it's because we're smarter than you. It's because we are more educated (remember education? it's supposed to be important), and are paying attention to what W does to dismantle our democracy and eliminate government protections for average Americans, while patting you on the head and telling you he will protect your right to be religious bigots. It's because we see that his "born-again" pose is one of two things: either a pretense to get votes, and in no way part of his real personal beliefs, or if he does believe what he says he does, he seems to us Blue voters the best advertisement imaginable for atheism. Not that we on the Left are all atheists, any more than your people are all snake-handlers - there are a few of each on each side. But if what W does is what a godly man does, then many of us want no part of him.

2) George W. Bush is a liar and a flip-flopper. He will say or do anything to get elected. He is not a good man, and he is not a strong leader. He is not "like you", any more than John Kerry is - they both went to Yale, Bush went on to Harvard Biz School, both come from generations of old money (Bush far more so than Kerry), and both were members of that heathen society, Skull and Bones. He will not keep you safer, in fact, his policies have created a world situation where we are much MORE likely to be attacked both at home and abroad than we have ever been. He has no idea what it means to send soldiers in harm's way, because he's never been there himself. He has managed to take us from a day when even the French said "Today, we are all Americans" to a place where our government, and now, increasingly, our people, are roundly hated even by those who were our allies as recently as four years ago. You do NOT know where he stands and what kind of man he is. And he does not want "only to keep you safe", unless there's money in it for him or his cronies. We in the Blue part of the country, we "reality-based" folks (now there's a scary dichotomy!) have hundreds, perhaps thousands of pieces of evidence of the above statements, and we do our best to get them into your hands and heads. But you "faith-based" folks have had that evidence available to you just as we have for 4 years, and you haven't absorbed any of it yet, so we despair of ever getting you to take a serious look at what we know is true.

For example, to put things on a simplistic level you can understand, I would bet that not many of you know that, a couple of weeks before the election, W said that civil unions for gays weren't a bad idea, but that the states should decide - a complete reversal of everything he'd ever said about the topic before. What happened to his support of a federal constitutional amendment? Or that he didn't ban stem cell research outright - he just banned federal funding for research that would lead to the development of new lines of stem cells (is it wrong, or isn't it? It can't be both.) Or that, due to W's faith-based ideas on birth control and sex education and the policies that stemmed from them, the number of abortions performed during his administration has actually increased by nearly 20% relative to the previous four year period. Or that he said that the war on terrorism can't be won. Or that he said there would be "no casualties" in Iraq. Or that there is NO evidence whatever that Saddam Hussein had anything to do with 9/11 or Al Qaeda.

I'll bet you don't know that, the day before the election, ONE DAY before, the government announced that record borrowing would be necessary to keep it afloat in the first quarter of '05 - $145 billion, and that number is almost certain to be higher than estimates, and is on top of the $442 billion we borrowed in the last year, which is on top of...well, even you folks can get the picture. Or that an alarming portion of that money is being loaned to us by foreign nations, including Saudi Arabia, China, and other countries that don't have America's best interests at heart. Do you really want COMMUNIST China holding the mortgage paper on the American government? You don't know that even with a Congressional majority and a conservative Supreme Court, there is almost no way that abortion is going to become illegal. You don't know that Red states have more divorces, more out-of-wedlock births and yes, more abortions than Blue ones, or that it's your children, and ours, who are going to end up without Social Security benefits when they reach retirement age, if he pushes through his "reform" of SocSec. All you know, and you don't really know that, is that W is "a good, godly man". Isn't there a lot said about hypocrites in the Bible?

You see, those are the kinds of things you learn when you read the paper, other than the comics or the sports page or the right-wing rags that only tell you what you think you already know, and when you watch news other than Fox. But it's too late for all that now. You've betrayed America, and we who voted for Kerry are deeply angry with you about it.

However, if nothing else can get through your thick heads, we ask that you look at one piece of evidence that perhaps even you can grasp: where is Pat Robertson? He's still alive, as far as I know, and he still is considered one of the leaders of your faith - but does he have the same almost at-will access to the president of the United States that he had before he said something on national TV that W didn't like? I think you'll find that, since those remarks, he has become essentially a "non-person" as far as W is concerned. And that's what happens to everyone - even you, if you are so bold - who disagrees with W or anyone he likes or is related to. Perhaps there is someone in your own church who has said something against him - is that person now pariah, even on your local congregation level? Is that the inclusive, all-enveloping spirit of love and tolerance that the Bible tells us is the teaching of Jesus?

But the sad part, indeed the saddest of all of the many outright tragedies that will result from this aberrant behavior, is that you folks - you Red-staters - will pay, on average, far more for this choice than we will. Just a few for-instances: Blues are, on average, better-educated and earn more money than Reds. Therefore, Reds will continue to pay for the tax cuts that favor the wealthy - many of whom are us! W even said, repeatedly, that raising taxes on the rich is a bad idea because we have lawyers and accountants to help us beat paying taxes - as he certainly knows from personal experience. Blues tend to be urban dwellers, and thus are more used to a certain degree of air pollution (we don't like it, but it comes with the territory), but Reds, as one can see from the electoral map, live in most of the few remaining pristine wildernesses in this country - so when Bush's environmental policies blow up in all our faces, you'll lose more than we will. Blues have higher average incomes, and thus can more often afford to purchase our own health insurance, while Reds will wait till Hell freezes over for Bush to do anything significant for you in this area. And finally, at least finally for now, Blues have, on average, fewer children, and more reasons for those children not to join the military as a career choice. Therefore, more children of Reds will fight and die in Iraq and Afghanistan, and wherever else Bush's conscienceless foreign adventures may lead us.

As I look back over what I've written, I know that the people to whom it's addressed will almost certainly never read it. Perhaps it's just one deeply angry person's attempt to let the rest of the world - the "reality-based" ones among us - know that not all Americans have gone stark, staring mad. In fact, only 50.7% of us are lunatics.

And hey, here's a thought - now that he can't run for re-election, and no longer needs you Red-staters, he may even abandon you, as he has us Blue folks. Watch for signs of it. Signs like, oh, I don't know....666?

Why We Won't Need A Draft

by Rich Miles

November 5, 2004

One of the little factoids that slipped by rather quickly in the ongoing debate about George W. Bush’s military service or lack thereof in the Vietnam era is that, while it’s unquestionable that he never saw combat, and pretty unquestionable that he was never likely to do so as a member of the Texas Air National Guard, he was a strong supporter of President Nixon and the Vietnam War.

So here we are, 35+ years later, and the man who didn’t serve in combat, who may have unethically avoided combat (we still don’t know with certainty), who was all for other people fighting in Vietnam, and who has engaged American troops in foreign combat with impunity on specious evidence, is president of the United States.

And the man who volunteered for service, and was wounded in combat, and came home to make some pretty rash but not necessarily untrue (we still don’t know with certainty) statements before a Senate committee about American troops’ behavior in combat, has seen that protest of that distant war become one of the factors in why he didn’t become president of the United States.

So here’s a modest proposal for supporting our nation’s choice for president in time of self-inflicted war: if you’re a Bush supporter, and an Iraq war supporter, and one of those who subscribes to the bloodthirsty, jingoistic, “we’re America so to hell with the rest of the world” foreign policy your president is so proud to espouse, then you have but one course clear to you: in order to help the president’s policies succeed, you must immediately enlist in the Armed Forces.

I mean all of you – all 62 million of you who voted for Bush – of all ages. Drop what you’re doing, right now, and go to the nearest recruiting office, and sign up for some form of military service. It’s your duty as Americans.

Some of you will say that you’re too old for military service – no excuses, do it anyway! While those gung ho young men and women are off in the deserts of Iraq dying for President Bush, we’re going to need lots of support people back here at home to make sure our brave soldiers are well equipped with unarmored vehicles and Halliburton MRE's. Join the National Guard, just like your idol did in his youth. Reactivate your reserve status. Do something besides sit on your backside in your pickup truck, listening to Rush Limbaugh tell you what a patriot you are because you voted for the best president we’ve ever had.

Some of you will say that it’s too much trouble – that it will disrupt your lives too much here at home to enlist in the armed forces. Now that’s not very patriotic of you, is it? Surely you don’t believe that it’s only the other guys who have to make such sacrifices? If you’re willing to wield the weapon of a vote for a man who makes war on nations that are no threat to us, surely you have the courage to step up and wield a real weapon in defense of your right to cast such a vote. America’s prestige is at stake here. We don’t want to look weak in the eyes of the French, do we? If we can’t kick the butts of a bunch of heathen ragheads who have to blow up their SUV’s to fight us, then what kind of nation are we anyway?

You have no choice – you must support your president in this way. He promised the nation there would not be a draft, and you have to do your part to make sure he doesn’t have to flip-flop on that promise. And besides, all of those brie-eating, wine-sipping, New York Times-reading peaceniks who voted for Kerry sure aren’t going to do it. They’re mostly rich people who will find ways to keep their kids out of the service if Bush is compelled to reinstate the draft. Just like Bush’s family did all those years ago.

We’re running out of cannon fodder, folks. Our forces are stretched way too thin all over the world. If another country threatens us – somewhere like, say, Albania, or perhaps Belize, or maybe a real threat like North Korea or Iran – we might not have enough firepower to show them what America is made of. With an army of more than 59 million, we could probably even whup the Chinese! Man, they could mow us down like rice stalks, and we'd still keep a-comin'!

So do your part, and show the world that America is not a bunch of warmongering Neanderthals who only talk a good game. Enlist in the Armed Forces today. Your president needs you.

And besides, the gene pool needs a good cleaning.

"Sure we'll have fascism in America, but it'll come disguised as 100 percent Americanism."

Huey P. Long

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Georgie One-Note

By Rich Miles

October 3, 2004

Excuse me...could you folks up there in New York spare a few minutes for a perspective from the heartland? Thanks. I'll try to be brief.

Several years ago, a national columnist - I don't remember who it was, though I suspect I'll find out quickly if he or she reads this - said that, on the topic of George W. Bush's intelligence, the real issue was "not how dumb he is, but how dumb he thinks we are." When I read this, I found it a cogent observation, and filed it away in the "true" column of my belief structures.

Nothing I have seen anywhere in the intervening time has done anything to alter my first impression of this observation. Consider the following more or less undisputed facts:

The war in Iraq, touted as a way to make the world safer for Americans, has degenerated into a bloody, costly, mismanaged debacle, where even IRAQIS aren't safer. Yeah, cuts!!

More than 45 million Americans have no health insurance, and the ones who do have it are seeing their premiums and ancillary costs skyrocket. Yeah, but tax cuts!

The national economy, despite recent minor advances, remains stagnant in most sectors, except for the ones in which it has declined. Yeah....ummm....but, tax cuts.

Net job losses remain, despite administration claims that they're going away. But, but, cuts.

The administration tells us that there is no such thing as global warming, and so no need to protect the environment. Yeahbuttaxcuts...

Repeated analyses of the effects of tax cuts show that, just as Al Gore told us they would in 2000, the overwhelming preponderance of the four tax cuts since Mr. Bush took office have benefited the top 1-2% of income earners. Yeah, but...well, tax cuts!

Mr. Bush continues to tout his plan to semi-privatize Social Security, despite having dropped the issue since the 2000 campaign, and despite numerous expert analyses showing that such a plan would bankrupt the system in a relatively short time. Yeah. But. Tax cuts.

State income and sales taxes are being raised dramatically all across the country (Ohio is a case in point, but by no means unique) to cover the shortfall from reduced federal funding of existing programs. Yeah, but...well, you know.

And the federal budget continues to rack up massive record deficits that will take decades to pay off, largely due to irresponsible tax cuts. Yeah, but....oops.

This is how dumb Mr. Bush and his advisers and his spineless, pusillanimous cronies in Congress think we are. They seem to believe that no one would vote out a president who is cutting their taxes, no matter what other damage is being done to America and the world by that same administration and its flawed policies.

This is in fact the favorite campaign tactic of the Bush administration - distract us from what's really going on with something that will make us think they're really doing something to help the American people, and hope we don't notice the sleight-of-policy. And sadly, it seems to be working, as evidenced by the fact that polls tell us the race is still close.

Mr. Kerry's call to repeal tax cuts for those making more than $200,000 a year - people most of us consider to be rich - will, if he is elected, be fought tooth and nail by those same "rich" folks, who just coincidentally are often the people who are making major contributions to reelect Mr. Bush, and in far too many cases are the very people in Congress who will vote on such an initiative.

And the American people continue to suffer on oh, so many levels. But hey! There are tax cuts!

But don't get me wrong - I don't mean to suggest that Mr. Bush is a one-issue candidate. Lest we forget, God wants him to be president, and those who disagree are unpatriotic. That too, for reasons I need not detail here, is a campaign issue.

Friday, September 03, 2004

The Same Ol Okie-Doke

by Rich Miles

September 3, 2004

George W. Bush did it to us again last night in his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention. He ran the same old tired stuff on us that he used in 2000, used the same old distortions of Kerry’s record and words that have been used over and over in this campaign despite numerous proofs that they were either taken out of context or outright lies. He ran that same old “you’re either with us or agin’ us” patriotism routine, and while accusing his opponent of proposing $2 trillion dollars of new spending (in what time frame? For what purpose? Who calculated that number?), he proposed numerous new spending initiatives (many of them NOT new, only recycled from the last campaign) with no mention of the cost, or where the money would come from, or even the indisputable fact that we are already hundreds of billions in debt from his policies.

And the faithful cheered in the right places, and booed in the right places (booed? Why are these people so mean-spirited?), and none of them even had the sense of history to recognize that we’ve heard this speech before.

As I listened to the soon-to-be-famous Last Six Paragraphs, I found myself thinking, “You know, this guy might almost be a human being”. If one could take Bush at face value, take him at his word, believe that what he says he’s done, and what he says he’ll do in a second term were true, I would at least be undecided, and I might even, God forbid, vote for him. But alas, it became clear that he merely has better speechwriters, and may also have taken some elocution lessons since the campaign began.

But his speech last night was the usual Bush tactic in full bloom – tell them all the wonderful things you’ll do for them, then simply – don’t do it. Don’t SAY you’re not going to do it, just very quietly don’t do it, or even more quietly, do the exact opposite of what you say. He’s used it throughout his term, and he used it again last night. As a very small for-instance, have you heard anything further about government backing of the hydrogen fuel cell research Bush promised to back in his ’02 State of the Union speech? Do you really believe a man so closely allied with the petroleum industry is seriously going to back research that, if successful, could some day make the use of fossil fuels obsolete? Do you also believe in the Easter Bunny?

If you’re still undecided about whether to vote for Bush, ask yourself this question (it requires research, so if you want an easy answer, this isn’t it): In nearly four years in office, can you name one initiative of the Bush administration – just ONE – that unquestionably benefits the American people without also benefiting, often to an obscene degree, someone close to the administration? Halliburton comes most quickly to mind, but there are others, and lots of them. If you can find even one such act, and can offer indisputable evidence that there is no such connection in it to Bush supporters, contributors, former or current business partners, etc., etc., I will applaud you. I tried it, and after hours of research over several months in, among other places, some of the most arcane government records one may access online, I wasn’t able to find even one.

Last night’s speech, at least near the end, was stirring – if it could be taken as the truth. But when four years of experience of the Bush administration has shown us that he will promise anything to get elected then simply forget about making good on the promise, that he would seem almost to prefer lies to the truth, and that he will use the scoundrel’s tool of loud patriotism shamelessly to demonize his opponent, if America puts George W. Bush back in the White House in November, then truly we deserve what we’re going to get. Remember “fool me once…”?

Sunday, February 29, 2004

The Magic Show Rolls On

by Rich Miles

February 29, 2004

“No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.”

- H. L. Mencken

Ever been to see a really good magician? Someone like David Copperfield, or The Amazing Kreskin, or their ilk. You sit there mesmerized – Mesmer was a pretty good magician too, we’re told – and if the illusion is good, and the effects dazzling enough, the response most people will have, after the ooh’s and aah’s, is something along the lines of “How’d he/she/they do that?” We all want to know what the “trick” is, where the reality lies behind the apparently inexplicable sight we just witnessed, even though we don’t really want to know because knowing would destroy the illusion, and we love clinging to our illusions.

The answer to the question “How’d he do that?” is usually summed up in one word: misdirection. It’s a basic skill for the illusionist, probably a concept introduced on day 1 of Magic 101, drilled and polished and drilled some more, until it becomes the basis for every onstage action the magician does for the rest of his career. The concept is quite simple, really: if I can make you look at something eye- or attention-catching over here, then I can do something quiet and unnoticeable over there, which I will spring on you in a moment when I’m ready, and you will ooh and aah, and say “How’d he do that?”. And that’s why magicians are so reluctant to explain their illusions – because there’s really not much magic to them, they’ve just succeeded at getting you not to notice their preparations until they want you to notice them, and the real masters at this can even make you look foolish, and misdirect you if you try to blow the trick before they’re ready.

Why do I tell you all this, you’re wondering? Well, we do have a presidential election coming up soon, after all, and perhaps there are a few folks in the country who simply refuse to hear anything bad about our president, including my mother, and perhaps there are a few things that our president has done and continues to do that might benefit from a bit of additional scrutiny. Consider:

The right hand says “No Child Left Behind”, while the left hand (or vice versa) cuts funding for education, and leaves LOTS of children behind, and then the other hand denigrates those who point out this inconsistency, and the OTHER hand (you keeping count?) offers a new budget with further cuts for education.

The one hand says “Healthy Forest Initiative”, while the other hand proposes clear-cutting national forests and drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

One hand says, “Clean Air Initiative”, while the other proposes to reduce federal limits on toxic emissions by corporations.

One hand says “Cut taxes, and make those tax cuts permanent” (a sure vote-getter, in most elections), while the other hand says that the huge federal deficits created by those tax cuts will stimulate the economy and wipe themselves out. Then the new budget proposed by the prez makes the deficits even larger. And no one in the administration ever even addresses the fact that our children and grandchildren will be paying these bills.

One hand says, “Let’s not have another 2000 election controversy – let’s reform voting mechanics, and get electronic and Internet voting up and running”, while the other hand quietly tries to push a bill through Congress to make it mandatory for ALL states to use the unreliable and extremely tamperable electronic voting machines made by a company whose leader was a big supporter of the prez in 2000 and beyond. That one hasn’t gotten passed yet, but the very act of trying to get it passed should give us pause.

One hand screams, in every single speech he’s given in the past two years or more, “Terror terror terror TERROR”, while the other invades a country that had little or nothing to do with terror anywhere but within its own borders.

Why are we letting GW Bush get away with this? Are we really so filled with fear that we will let a president steal the country out from under us, as long as he makes empty promises to fight terrorism etc. etc? Yes, terrorism is a continuing threat to our national security – but so are huge, unresolvable federal budget deficits. So are cuts in funding to education. So are all the things our patrician president has lied to us about, and so few have tried to call him to task for these lies and evasions. And those who have often have their impertinent questions simply ignored. No politician in living memory has used the “I don’t like the question, so I’m going to ignore it” tactic more – Ronald Reagan cupping his ear as if he hadn’t heard the question, as he got on board the helicopter, probably doesn’t count, because he probably couldn’t hear it. GW hears them, and still ignores them.

Do we really want to know what Bush can do in four more years, when he hasn’t even the small restraint of having to get re-elected to tone him down? Think about that – I mean, really think about it.

The only nugget of good news, or at least good speculation, that comes to mind at this time, is that, depending on your point of view Bush either won the election by a very small margin, or had to resort to stealing it to win it. In my wildest dreams, I can’t imagine that very many people who voted for Gore in 2000 are going to switch to Bush in ’04 – and I can easily imagine a substantial number who voted for Bush switching to the Dems this time. So if he won by a whisker last time, perhaps he will lose by the same whisker this year. After all, the Bush family has so many proud traditions – why not add one-term presidencies to the list? I mean, Poppy did it.

Thursday, February 26, 2004

Politically Motivated? Yeah, What of it

by Rich Miles

Feb. 26, 2004

At least there’s some humor in this grim political season. I can’t help laughing when I read yet another statement from the White House, or some other Bush partisan, that this or that action by the opposition was “politically motivated”.

Let me clue in those poor souls who are so clearly lacking in a sense of irony that they can make such statements with a completely straight face: most of the “attacks” (read: uncovering of inconvenient facts) are indeed politically motivated. But that doesn’t make them wrong. Consider:

We still don’t know – despite the release of all those smudged copies of pay records and honorable discharges and so on – if our “War President” ever even served the time he signed on for in the Air National Guard, while his less-well-off cohort was off in the jungles of Vietnam, sweating and dying for our country’s misguided foreign policy. But to continue bringing up the matter, and seeking real information or eyewitness accounts of his presence in the wilds of Alabama is “politically motivated”.

Mr. Bush himself has backed away from his loudly proclaimed promise that he (HE, mind you, not the nation’s economy) would create 2.6 million jobs this year, and has blamed the entire statement on some overzealous number-crunchers at the Dept. of Labor. But for that fact to be brought up in public conversation is “politically motivated”.

Ditto his claims that massive tax cuts will actually reduce the massive deficits – “politically motivated” if you bring up the obvious fact that the emperor’s budget and fiscal policies have no clothes.

He has blamed his acceptance of flawed intelligence – which he was allegedly TOLD was flawed before he used it – on the CIA. But to mention that he is the president, and therefore should have made absolutely sure before using that intelligence to justify sending our troops into combat is “politically motivated”.

And God forbid – pardon, no pun intended – you should question whether a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage is right or wrong! To suggest such an abuse of our constitutional system is genuinely anti-American is, again, “politically motivated”.

One can go on and on – but the bottom line of this discussion is that the effort to defeat Mr. Bush in November is – you guessed it – politically motivated. There – we admit it, it’s out in the open, and now, can we just give that particular canard a rest? It doesn’t sting the way it’s supposed to any longer – in fact, I’m proud to wear it.

The real irony here is that everything – EVERYTHING, even the stuff that looks good at first glance – that the Bush administration and their off-the-books pit bulls do is politically motivated, and intended for no other purpose than to get Mr. Bush reelected (or should I say, elected for the first time, as I don’t acknowledge that he was elected in 2000 – he was appointed by the Supreme Court).

So lest I go on to book length in this little screed, let me just say it once and for all: yes, the “attacks” on you are “politically motivated”, Mr. Bush. And our political motivation is to get you out of office in November. No amount of whining by your minions will alter the fact that we are deeply angry with you out here in the Heartland. So angry, in fact, that a lot of us, some Republicans included, are going to vote for anyone but you, even someone who has told us unequivocally that he will raise our taxes, to pay for your fiscal irresponsibility over the past three years.

I read a satirical quote the other day, that was attributed to George W. Bush. He probably never said this, but it does seem to describe his attitude rather succinctly:

“You can fool some of the people all of the time – and those are the ones we need to focus on”.

Politically motivated? Damn right.