Sunday, January 25, 2009

Advice For Obama About Iraq: Voices From The Past

By Manifesto Joe

President Barack Obama has made clear that, while he isn't going to do anything rash, he intends to make a clean break from many Bush administration policies, and in particular those regarding the Iraq war. That sounds like great news to me.

But, I'm a believer in history, and in the lessons of context that it teaches. It's a good idea to listen to voices of experience, from the past, and Obama should heed them. Here are a couple:

"If you're going to go in and try to topple Saddam Hussein, you have to go to Baghdad. Once you've got Baghdad, it's not clear what you do with it. It's not clear what kind of government you would put in place of the one that's current there now. Is it going to be a Shia regime, a Sunni regime or a Kurdish regime? Or one that tilts toward the Baathists, or one that tilts toward the Islamic fundamentalists? How much credibility is that government going to have if it's set up by the United States military when it's there? How long does the United States military have to stay to protect people that sign on for that government, and what happens to it once we leave?"
Then-Defense Secretary Dick Cheney, in 1991.

"Trying to eliminate Saddam, extending the ground war into an occupation of Iraq, would have violated our guideline about not changing objectives in midstream, engaging in 'mission creep,' and would have incurred incalculable human and political costs. Apprehending him was probably impossible. We had been unable to find Noriega in Panama, which we knew intimately. We would have been forced to occupy Baghdad and, in effect, rule Iraq ... Going in and occupying Iraq, thus unilaterally exceeding the United Nations' mandate, would have destroyed the precedent of international response to aggression that we hoped to establish. Had we gone the invasion route, the United States could conceivably still be an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land. It would have been a dramatically different -- and perhaps barren -- outcome."
Former President George H.W. Bush and former national security adviser Brent Scowcroft, in their book "A World Transformed" (1998).

It all seems a bit confusing. But I am hopeful that President Obama is a student of history and can learn from it. Clearly, our rulers of the past eight years have been astonishingly oblivious to its lessons.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

While Watching Inauguration, Thoughts Of A Long-Dead Sibling

By Manifesto Joe

My only sibling, a sister, was killed in an auto accident in 1981, only three weeks after Ronald Reagan was inaugurated as president. Today, while watching the inauguration of Barack Obama, I thought of her, and what she would think about America today if she's been watching this on some fourth-dimension TV set.

"An African-American president, in 2009? I thought it would take a century," I can almost hear her say. Then, during the parade, "They're a great-looking couple. Listen to the screams -- it's like Elvis came back from the dead. ..."

"Joe Biden? I remember that young smart-mouth from back in the Seventies. He was still in the Senate last year, and now he's vice president? Unbelievable."

I felt sad that my big sister, who would have been pushing 55 now, didn't live to see this day.

I also felt great pride in America, more pride than I've felt in a very long time.

After 28 mostly depressing years, it really is, at last, "morning in America." I hope you can see us now, Sis.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Bush's Final Days, Part 4: Doo-fus! Doo-fus! Doo-fus! ...

By Manifesto Joe

Get those extended-forearm salutes up, loyal subjects. Il Doofus has spoken, ostensibly for the last time.

I have to admit that, in his Thursday night farewell address to the nation, Bush and his speechwriters put the best possible face on myriad historic disasters. (See attached video of some of the speech, from MSNBC.) It almost made the manure palatable. Fortunately, not everyone's memory is that short. (See second attached video.)

During the debates on Bush's role in history -- like, is he the worst U.S. president of all time? -- there were comparisons made with presidents who were generally regarded as ineffectual. Such officeholders would be Ulysses S. Grant, Warren G. Harding, Calvin Coolidge, and a couple of others.

I can't find who it was, but one historian said that being ineffectual was never Bush's problem. Il Doofus, he explained, has really been quite effective -- at pursuing disastrous policies. Over and over. And over again.

And then, I will add, proclaiming them successes.

It's past 11, but here's the film anyway:

Now, for equal time, here's Scotty McClellan on Keith Olbermann's MSNBC Countdown show, at long last being something resembling an honest man.

Four days to go.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Bush's Final Days, Part 3: On Katrina Response, Stunningly Delusional

By Manifesto Joe

Il Doofus held his final D.C. press conference Monday, and used the occasion to try to rewrite history per the events of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. People who were paying attention back then remember this as a turning point in public perception of Bush. He certainly wasn't exposed as incompetent for the first time, but that time was somehow most telling. FEMA's resources had been slowly gutted over years, and he had put unqualified political hacks in charge of a crucial agency.

Here's video from last night; and mind you, this is coming through the MSM looking glass. From Anderson Cooper 360 on CNN:

Another thing to remember is the role of the National Guard during natural disasters such as hurricanes. Because the U.S. has relied heavily upon Guard troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Guard wasn't exactly prepared to respond to a disaster as incredible as Katrina. Let's take a trip back to 2005, courtesy again of the MSM:

And, long after the initial destruction, things just didn't seem to get much better in New Orleans or surrounding parts of the Gulf Coast:

Now -- here's what Il Doofus had to say to the Washington press corps in his final conference with them, as reported by The Associated Press:

"Don't tell me the federal response was slow when there were 30,000 people pulled off roofs right after the storm passed. ... Could things been done better? Absolutely. But when I hear people say the federal response was slow, what are they going to say to those chopper drivers or the 30,000 who got pulled off the roof?"

Well -- judge for yourself. Delusional, or just a common liar?

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Bush's Final Days, Part 2: Shoulder Massages And Instant Nostalgia

By Manifesto Joe

One of the stated purposes of my blog is to remind everyone that Bush isn't really from Texas. Not that our bragging rights down here have ever been all that great, but it would be good for the rest of the country to know that not all genuine Texans are that dumb.

This was originally posted April 2, 2008. It's a concise reminder of how Bush, that Yale and Harvard grad with the frat-rat manners and oilfield-trash affectations, embarrassed Texas, the nation, and most of all, himself. And this was just one of many examples.

There's been a news report that German Chancellor Angela Merkel does not plan to attend the opening ceremony of the Summer Olympic Games in Beijing because of China's human rights record.

George W. Bush, the report said, plans to be there. It's my theory that Merkel isn't going to show because she doesn't want another of those shoulder massages like Bush gave her a couple of years ago at the G-8 Summit.

I wonder, did he call her Merkie-Merk? -- MJ

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Bush's Last 10 Days, Part 1: Recipe For Fiscal Disaster

By Manifesto Joe

As the countdown to Bush as ex-"president" begins, it might be good to put into context why some Americans, even some U.S. historians, regard Il Doofus as the worst "president" of modern times.

The federal deficit for the current fiscal year is being projected at $1.2 trillion. That's more than the entire national debt was at the time Jimmy Carter left office in January 1981.

The Congressional Budget Office report lays much of the blame for this spike on lower tax revenues due to the recession, and on $400 billion spent to bail out Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and various financial institutions amid the mortgage crisis. Bush policies did a great deal to contribute to all of the above, but that's another post. For now, let's stick to the budget.

The deficit for fiscal 2007-08 was about $455 billion, consistent in real dollars with what was being run annually during the Reagan and Bush I presidencies. It's not too shocking, until you consider that Bush II inherited what had been the largest surplus the federal government has ever run, some $230 billion in fiscal 1999-2000, from departing President Bill Clinton's administration.

The surplus decreased to $158 billion during fiscal 2000-01, which Bush presided over some of. Bush apologists have tried to make an end run out of this, saying that declining revenues due to a briefly sour economy were responsible. They've also pointed out that the Clinton surpluses occurred even though federal tax cuts were passed in 1997, an apparent argument for supply-side policies.

That's fair enough, up to a point. But by 2001-02, the federal government was in the red again, and that continued year after year until the aforementioned $455 billion deficit was reached. How did this happen?

Bush spent the first months of his presidency pushing tax bonanzas, mainly for his rich friends, through the Congress, along with scraps from the rich man's table for the rest of us, amounting to $300 per person. His economic plan basically rolled back the relatively modest Clinton tax increases on the wealthy, passed by the narrowest of margins in 1993.

Students of fiscal policy know that it's anything but simple, but a few policy effects during this administration seem clear. It didn't take long to turn surpluses into deficits, and arguments that this isn't related to tax policy are, at the very least, unconvincing.

Then, after 9-11, Bush the "decider" decided to take the country to war(s). The first one, in Afghanistan, seemed and still seems like a defensible action, despite the toll on the Afghan people. The second, the March 2003 invasion of Iraq, was in hindsight clearly elective. Aside from being an act of aggression, it turned out to be one of the most expensive mistakes a U.S. administration has ever made.

According to a July 2008 update, military operations alone in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost $872.6 billion. Some $661.1 billion of that was for ops in Iraq. Source: Congressional Research Service data.

Even conservatives need to put this into perspective. Would Winston Churchill have held fast to big tax cuts for the wealthy during an expensive war, and even have audaciously pushed for more such cuts?

George W. Bush did. And in so doing, the U.S. was set up, and knocked down like bowling pins, for the $1.2 trillion annual deficit we now face. Now tell me that, as a "president," this buffoon didn't suck great big green ones, with warts on them. His decisions were consistently the worst that could have been made, and yet he stubbornly continues to defend them. I don't think future generations will find his defense convincing.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

'Mister Roberts': A Wonderful Allegory On Fascism

By Manifesto Joe

Have you ever worked for a boss who seemed more than a bit like Mussolini?

The American classic Mister Roberts (novel, 1946, followed by the Broadway play in 1948 and the movie in 1955) would have to strike a familiar chord if you have. "Fascists" live and work all around us, every day. It's a state of mind. All that most of them lack is the opportunity to practice it on a grand scale.

The fascist in Mister Roberts is Capt. Morton, played most memorably on screen by the late James Cagney. (See the attached trailer.) Morton, the captain of a cargo ship operating in the Pacific during World War II, doesn't kill anybody. But what authority he exercises is that of a six-bit tyrant, so he's toxic to a lot of human spirits.

The guy who actually runs the crew and the ship is Lt. Doug Roberts, portrayed in a signature performance on stage and screen by Henry Fonda. He's a good intermediary between the inept swine of a captain and the crew below, but he's bored and anxious to actually get into the fight during the waning days of the war.

I've seen the film version of Mister Roberts a few times, and it reminds me of employment situations, time after time. Ultimately, it's fun to watch -- but it drives home the sad point that there are plenty of Mortons out there, basically just cancers festering on or near the tops of businesses or government agencies. There's an exchange in which Capt. Morton gets to explain to Roberts how he came to his malignant point of view. (" 'Hey, boy -- my friend seems to have thrown up on our table' ... I took it. I took it for years. Now I don't have to take it no more!' ")

What the novel, play and film depict is a microcosm of what tragically takes place from time to time among nations, on a broad and murderous macro scale. Most of us have known several Mortons -- and potential Mussolinis.

Here's an old-fashioned trailer, from 1955 -- in Cinemascope.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.