Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Oblivious... or EVIL? (Answer: Oblivious AND Evil)

George Bush is more Talking Point than man, now... Twisted, and Evil.

Read Remarks by the President in a Conversation on Strengthening Social Security, February 4, 2005:

Mary is with us. Mary Mornin. How are you, Mary?

MS. MORNIN: I'm fine.

THE PRESIDENT: Good. Okay, Mary, tell us about yourself.

MS. MORNIN: Okay, I'm a divorced, single mother with three grown, adult children. I have one child, Robbie, who is mentally challenged, and I have two daughters.

THE PRESIDENT: Fantastic. First of all, you've got the hardest job in America, being a single mom.

MS. MORNIN: Thank you. (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT: You and I are baby boomers.

MS. MORNIN: Yes, and I am concerned about -- that the system stays the same for me.


MS. MORNIN: But I do want to see change and reform for my children because I realize that we will be in trouble down the road.

THE PRESIDENT: It's an interesting point, and I hear this a lot -- will the system be the same for me? And the answer is, absolutely. One of the things we have to continue to clarify to people who have retired or near retirement -- you fall in the near retirement.

MS. MORNIN: Yes, unfortunately, yes. (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I don't know. I'm not going to tell your age, but you're one year younger than me, and I'm just getting started. (Laughter.)

MS. MORNIN: Okay, okay.

THE PRESIDENT: I feel great, don't you?

MS. MORNIN: Yes, I do.
(J: It is unkown if this was in earnest or ironic -- but in my admittedly already anti-Bush opinion -- this was a pretty patronizing exchange on the President's part.)

THE PRESIDENT: I remember when I turned 50, I used to think 50 was really old. Now I think it's young, and getting ready to turn 60 here in a couple of years, and I still feel young. I mean, we are living longer, and people are working longer, and the truth of the matter is, elderly baby boomers have got a lot to offer to our society, and we shouldn't think about giving up our responsibilities in society. (Applause.) Isn't that right?

MS. MORNIN: That's right.

(J: Again, we don't know how much sardonic distance Ms. Mornin was feeling, but surely she realizes what the President is saying here is "Aww, come on now, if things get really bad, you all can just keep working, right?" He's possibly right -- that longer lifespan implies people should have longer working lives -- but it is a poor response in this context and to someone who is clearly already working her heart out.)

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, but nevertheless, there's a certain comfort to know that the promises made will be kept by the government.


THE PRESIDENT: And so thank you for asking that. You don't have to worry.

MS. MORNIN: That's good, because I work three jobs and I feel like I contribute.
(J: is this possibly a response to the Prez saying "we shouldn't think about giving up our responsbilities to society"? Guess she did pick up on the implications.)

THE PRESIDENT: You work three jobs?

MS. MORNIN: Three jobs, yes.

THE PRESIDENT: Uniquely American, isn't it? I mean, that is fantastic that you're doing that. (Applause.) Get any sleep? (Laughter.)

MS. MORNIN: Not much. Not much.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, hopefully, this will help you get you sleep to know that when we talk about Social Security, nothing changes.

MS. MORNIN: Okay, thank you.

THE PRESIDENT: That's great.

(all emphasis and superemphasis and super super emphasis mine)

Ah. AHHHHHHH. (Long-time friends of J know his propensity to scream in futile rage at stupidity -- apologies.)

Now, it is possible that Bush was simply on auto-pilot and didn't realize he was, in effect, saying "Good job -- you're working enough for 3 people, raising a family, and have a child with a disability, which by the way we haven't really supported Special Education much but that's besides the point, good for you! Your suffering and just scraping by and worrying makes you: Uniquely American!" (Dah dah!) But I think it's equally possible, if not more likely, that he believed what he was saying. That's right! Pay your dues! The American Way! I'm sure that as part of my ownership society, a single, divorced mother of 3 with 3 jobs and a child with a disability has JUST as much opportunity to reach the heights of American democracy and capitalism as, say, I did! Yessir! And if you can't, you can always keep working!"

This horrible exchange should almost stand alone (on the blog, if not in the annals of history), but Explanada also has a bit on this, and of course AAR covered it as well.

Other (bad) news:

From Slate's TP:
The WP fronts a former White House official saying in a published piece that there was "minimal senior White House commitment" to support faith-based programs for the poor. "From tax cuts to Medicare, the White House gets what the White House really wants," he wrote. "It never really wanted the 'poor people stuff.' "

Lastly, also at Explanada, really good examinations of evolutionary biology/evolutionary psychology, in part in response to things written by Mark Kleiman on Harvard Prez Larry Summer's comments on the "possiblity" that differences in science achievement in the sexes are biological in origin. See Explanada posts here, here, and here; see Will Saletan's (incorrect) take on this here, see my indignant response here.

More Slate reposts to come -- there's some of my stuff on there that I think turned out well, so might as well repost here -- working on a thesis doesn't lend much time for duplication of effort (let alone posting in the first place, doh.)

Monday, February 14, 2005

A Post for An Audience of One

Apologies to any who see this who are not among the target audience of one (1).


Happy Valentine's Day, Happy 25th Birthday, Happy Black History Month!

This was the least-cliche way I could think of to wish you a happy V-day.

Let the celebration commence! In 2 weeks.

There's a lot of celebrating to be done.

Just for extra treats: one of the best MLK, Jr. speeches, much overlooked, much more militant, and partial basis of my speech last January: Where do we go from here?

A great book by Edward Ballthat, among other things, implies most white Americans are more African than might be expected (though the Smith history specifically is unknown to us).

Roy Wilkins less well known Civil Rights Leader.

And, to return to the other themes, Happy Valentine's Day, and a conta deste dia de "ficando bebedo/a e então conseguindo etc." pode ser pagado, como sempre 'tavamos dizendo, em pouco tempo.

No intervalo, va praqui: Cute things, pretty things, flowers, and random joke -- without killing any flowers, giving any money (directly to any corporations), and with a certain bit of homemadeness that hopefully avoids cliche.

(Pode ser que esta website nao dará corretamente a primeira vez -- reload umas vezes e deve dar.)

E sim, se pede depois que ver, vou tirar esta "post" do website.

Muitas letras, J

Don't quote them boy, cuz they ain't said shit

The timeless piece that perhaps best describes our times.

This (the article/book reviewed in the article) is a far more succint way of summarizing my previous post.

On Bullshit, by Harry G. Frankfurt, J Continuum Philosopher of the Year (barring further revelation or encountering of another philosopher of the year in the next 10 months).

Bush Plan Make Brain Hurt; Drought of Truly Original Content Continues

I think I'm suffering for GW's sins (well, ok, I KNOW pretty much ALL of us in the less-than-near-infinity income bracket are suffering, most of all the Iraqis, but I have a specific angle, go with me here).

It seems obvious that the Bush Crime Family is completely immune to cognitive dissonance. I think I'm experiencing it ALL for them.

As was said in the Monty Python version of "King Solomon's Wines Mines", "Brain hurts!"

From Al Franken today on AAR has possibly the best brief explanation of Bush's Social Security Plan for private accounts (though maybe this quote is originally from Michael Kinsley, but paraphrased in any case):

"A man dying from thirst asks the President for water.

'I don't have any water,' says the President, 'but I have some lemonade.'

'Oh, okay... that'll be fine,' responds the thirsty man.

The President gives the man some powdered lemonade.

'All you have to do now is to add water.'"

Of course, some MiniTruth apparatchik, basically affirmed this analogy in a less opaque manner some days ago:
From the February 2 White House background briefing:

QUESTION: Can you give us a second ten-year estimate on the revenue effect? Can you tell us how you would pay for that, in the first ten years' revenue loss? And am I right in assuming that in the way you describe this, because it's a wash in terms of the net effect on Social Security from the accounts by themselves, that it would be fair to describe this as having -- the personal accounts by themselves as having no effect whatsoever on the solvency issue?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: On the second point, that's a fair inference.



Do note that this, to my knowledge, is the only place the Administration mentions this. THAT THE PERSONAL INVESTMENT ACCOUNTS BY THEMSELVES HAVE NO EFFECT WHATSOEVER ON THE SOLVENCY ISSUE.

Solvency = the ability to pay all dues and debts, that is to NOT be bankrupt, that is, personal accounts have no effect whatsoever, according to a Senior Administration Official, on the bankruptcy "problem" of Social Security.

Well, some doubting thomas unlikely to be reading my site huffs, you haven't shown that the President has implied the Private Accounts will fix the bankruptcy problem. They're a good idea anyway, so you shouldn't try and pass them off as something they're not.

Let's go to the tape:
(Scott McClellan): ...and so the President is going to continue reaching out to the American people and talking about the problems facing Social Security, and the reason why we need to act now to strengthen it, because it's something that only gets worse over time. In 2018, you're going to have the system paying out more than it's taken in. And each year after that, the shortfall only grows worse. And then in 2042, of course, it becomes bankrupt.

So the President is going to continue emphasizing the problem facing Social Security, he's going to continue to reach out to members of Congress, as well. He's had a number of meetings, he will continue to have a series of meetings to talk about ideas for solving this problem. Part of the solution is personal accounts, so that younger workers can realize a greater rate of return. Everybody is going to have a guaranteed benefit under Social Security. We want them also to have a voluntary option of a new benefit that would help them realize a greater rate of return.

Q But the personal accounts are not part of solving the solvency problem?

MR. McCLELLAN: They're part of strengthening Social Security, and that's -- the problem facing Social Security right now is that younger workers are facing either massive benefit cuts or massive tax increases if we don't act to address it now. The status quo is massive tax increases or severe benefit cuts. And that's not a solution. So both are part of the solution. Yes, personal accounts in and of themselves do not solve the fiscal problem facing Social Security, but they are part of the solution for strengthening Social Security for our children and grandchildren.

And seniors are not going to see any changes. The President will continue to make that clear, that if you're born before 1950, nothing will change for you.

--February 11, 2005 White House Press Briefing

Arrrgh. Arrgh. Arggh. (These are grunts of dismay, not pirate sounds.)

Of course, there are also numerous analyses saying, in contradiction of the White House, that Social Security is not even in desperate danger -- it needs to be addressed, but the dates waved around by the Bush Crime Family obscure what the timeline actually says. 2014 or so, as I understand it, the program starts paying out more than it takes in -- making this a turning point, but not necessarily a crisis point. Rate of income will now be less than rate of benefits-paying -- a net outflow of money isn't good/sustainable, but with savings it's not insurmountable (the government "IOUs" to itself isn't exactly "savings" but that's a topic for another time). In 2042 (estimate by the Social Security Administration), or in 2052 (the estimate by the Congressional Budget Office), the trust funds will be depleted. However, estimates say that 73-75% of benefits will be payable by the government in 2042/2052, declining to 68% in 2075.

A stitch in time saves 9, and all that, and an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and so the J Continuum definitely supports addressing Social Security; but with 37 years until the problem reachs any kind of hard wall, and 70 years until the problem leads to a one third reduction in benefits, the problem is serious, but not the same as, say, our soldiers and Iraqi civilians dying each week, to the tune of tens of thousands of Iraqis and some 1 or 2 thousand US troops. Widespread human rights violations, from incarceration without cause to collective punishment to extraordinary rendition to, of course, torture, with those who followed orders going down for those who gave them. Both are guilty -- but logically, one can't solve a problem by picking out, as it were, a couple leaves from a weed -- it has to come up by the roots.

For more on Social Security, see perhaps clearer explanations here (the "net neutral effect" of private accounts will require "borrow[ing] $754 billion (including interest) through 2015 to finance the initial phase-in of the accounts"), here ("Nobody who has read this exchange should fear any longer that Social Security is going 'bankrupt.'", from 1997), here (with others now sadly in the 'pay' category at the NYTimes, though this one isn't yet), and here (good summary by Washington Post).

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

J Hits the Big Time/J Fails to Cash in on it

*Warning Warning*: Semi-self serving post and references here.

It's with much excitement that we see an actual increase in traffic on the blog of late, in large part due to a link from Slate from a relatively good review of a Slate article by Jack Shaferon Bush's treatment of the media that got linked to on Slate at the bottom of Shafer's column.

Sadly, reviewing the traffic dats makes it appear that clickers from Shafer's article neither stay on the Continuum very long, nor spend much (any) time looking back at previous posts. (This might be in part due to the relatively uncritical first-appraisal of Shafer's article, now partially corrected.)

As a public (self-serving) service, linked here are some of my personal choices as best previous postings, in the hopes someone will click through and, if I'm very, very, lucky, finally post a comment, incite some conversation and debate and, then we're on our way to truly engaging, enlightened blogged exchange of ideas, a colletive Demosthenes and Locke type exchange, a la Ender's Game..

SO, my own hit parade (insert sound of horn tooting here):

From practically moments ago, "Thank Goodness it was only crushing neglect", which has excellent facts even though it is mostly meta analysis (if even that).

A pretty good recent on here: Media BS: Can you spot the media bias? Actual original analysis and commentary included!

A seems-like-it-should-be-controversial, but-no-one-appears-to-have-noticed bit on Yushenko and the Ukrainian elections, "Proxy Servant", which I would say may have proved prescient if I could find any of the articles in prominent news sources referring to growing questions of Yushenko's true democratic questions (if memory serves, that was approximately the name of the article I saw, I thought in NY Times). Instead, follow up here (on Bloomberg news) and here. Though I won't be picking the present post as part of a future best of, I should nonetheless in fairness add dissenting opinions of the Yushchenko gov, as well as other links from less "mainstream" outlets to possible problems (including this doozy). But the point in the original post stands -- where's the two (or more) sided analysis? (And then there's the completely tangential part about female representation in government...)

Quickly now, other favs:

The Moral Bankruptcy of Michael Kinsley & co.

Kerry and JoeMentum

Post Election Analysis: so bad it's good

J Loses his optimism

I didn't like John Kerry

And last for now, my favorites on media (lack of) analysis.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Then again...

Loyal readers may have seen the exultant post of recent about "Bush as Kim Jong-Il". While it seemed to me that this meme itself was hyperbole with a real point, many Slate readers make some good points about some problems with Shafer's article. I still am, essentially, a big fan of it (as poster Joe_JP points out, Shafer pointed out enough lies to earn his keep), but the rebuttals are not wholly without merit -- at least in terms of learning how many of them responded to the tone and content of what I believe is a true message by S.

So to any readers out there like Thrasymachus, I acknowledge that B is no K J-i, of course not, and to say so does bear a resemblance to Bush is Hitler hyperbole. But in this case, I thought it was supposed to be tongue-in-cheek, and has important points besides the stretched comparison (and yes, I realize "it was only a joke" is the oldest one in the book, but c'mon, irony's got to be ok sometimes, right?)

All other readers, continue preaching the word, if you would (minding your hyperbole, of course).


Friday, February 04, 2005

Oh, thank goodness it was only crushing neglect...

Guess where today's news tips come from? (-50 points for guessing anything but Slate's Today's Paper's (TP).)

From the NYT (via TP):
[A] doctor, Maj. David Auch, told us that some of the prisoners at Abu Ghraib were psychotic and out of control. One, he said, would repeatedly strip off his clothes and smash his head against the wall. After handcuffs and a helmet failed to stop him and with straitjackets unavailable, some soldiers suggested the leash. Major Auch granted their request.

The soldiers who snapped and posed for the photos of abuse are being called to account. But the focus on their culpability diverts attention from the causal relationship between the Pentagon's priorities and the hellish conditions that both prisoners and their captors endured. This larger story, of conditions that ensured neglect and invited cruelty, is being ignored.


"The hospital lacked basic supplies, according to members of the clinical staff, and at times it maintained a surgical service without surgeons. Sometimes the hospital ran out of chest tubes, intravenous fluids or medicines. Medical staff members improvised, taking tubes from patients when they died and reusing them, without sterilization." The shortages may help explain, though not excuse, that photo of a leashed prisoner...

Favorite "diss" of the day: the NYT apparently calculates, from the (~10%) partial vote returns showing the main Shiite coalition (al-Sistani's I believe, as opposed to Allawi's) with an even larger lead than expected. However, the 10% sample is considered statistically unsound, leading to this great exchange: "Election officials refused to add up the numbers they released. Asked why, an official snorted, 'You mean, why haven't we made it easy for you to do an analysis that we consider unsound?' The other papers heed that advice." (Good catch by TP: the cover story leads with the unsound analysis... a piece inside the paper has the quote saying it's bunk.)

Other TP rehashes: "...a day after President Bush said the U.S. is "working with European allies" to keep Iran nukes-free, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the U.S. won't work with European allies on their plan to offer carrots to Teheran. She also described Iran's human-rights record as 'something to be loathed,' apparently the kind of rhetoric Europeans don't find helpful." (In fact, those who DO expect the Spanish Inquisition, don't, in fact, expect the Spanish Inquisition...)

Lastly, oy vey: "The papers go inside with an internal EPA report saying the agency, as the Post puts it, 'ignored scientific evidence and agency protocols' in order to come up with a mercury proposal to the White House's liking. The administration accused the author, an apparent Democrat, of being partisan. But the Post gets corroboration from a few EPA employees. 'Everything about this rule was decided at a political level,' said one."

Sorry for the recent lack of original content and instead mostly meta-analysis or links to Slate. I'd encourage everyone to read Today's Papers every day, except then there'd be no reason to come here first...

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Know it, Love it, Use it

Today's meme (the J-Quivalent of the Unfiltered talking point): Bush as Kim Jong-il.

Wait for it, wait for it, ok, here it is:

Jack Shafer, gumshoe Slate media critic, takes on Bush, or more to the point, develops a cogent indictment of the Bush secrecy anti-media "pro-freedom" anti-freedom faith-based Machine. To whit, Shafer lists the numerous ways the Prez has tried to keep us from knowing what the Prez and crüe are doing. (Homework: Use Prez and Crüe the next time you write anything about the Bush Administration.) His strictures on FOIA, browbeating of the press, and use of Scott McClellan (illegal sidetracking, five yard penalty) are breathtaking, to me, in their horribleness. This is one of the Bush legacies no one's talking about -- perhaps because he's doing a good enough job that no one knows about it.

Anyway, go to Shafer, know the Bush-Jong-il meme, love it, use it, spread it.

(Extra credit: Start refering to the Prez & Crüe only as the Bush Crime Family, a la angry, angry Mike Malloy.)

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

SOTU by the Liar in Chief

Sorry for the terribly unoriginal title -- all I have for you tonight is a link to a site doing what I don't have time for; debunking Pres. Bush's speech line by line (or maybe lie by lie). Thinkprogress.org, a new blog, kept real-time track of his speech and rebutted it (didn't catch the Dem. rebuttal from down here in Brasil, or the SOTU for that matter, but dimes'll get you dollars that it wasn't very good -- or at least not as complete and unequivocal as I'd like).

I don't really see the point in watching the SOTU, anyway -- it's not that it's unimportant, it's that the most important real-life part of it are the analyses of it. The SOTU bears so little relation to reality -- what happened to going to Mars? To steroids in baseball? To the Niger uranium? etc. -- that paying attention to it itself is practically an exercise in futility. The Cliffs Notes is usually more than sufficient, and what is usually more important is the meta-news that is generated -- that is, when the news story BECOMES the story. When "the news" says he did a good job, this becomes the news, if they say his approval went up or down, this story (in my opinion) is as or more likely to continue that trend as the speech itself. (Though the "Axis of Evil" portion of the 2002 SOTU was definitely news in itself -- but nonetheless, the reactions of allies and opponents was far more important than anything he said, as everyone noted that the 3 "axes" were non-aligned, and he doesn't seem to have a plan for North Korea).

Alright. I'm out.