Posts Tagged ‘George W. Bush’

Glenn Greenwald on the crimes of Trump

November 7, 2020

President Bush and Vice President Cheney

Those who want to insist that Trump’s evils are unprecedented — such that their own service to or support for prior presidents should not exclude them from the realm of the Patriotic, the Decent and the Noble — should be prepared to explain which acts of Trump’s compete with the destruction of Iraq, or the implementation of a global regime of torture, or the “rendition” kidnappings and CIA black sites and illegal domestic eavesdropping under Bush and Obama, or imprisoning people for decades with no due process, and on and on and on.

No Matter the Liberal Metric Chosen, the Bush / Cheney Administration Was Far Worse Than Trump by Glenn Greenwald.  None of this is an excuse for Trump, of course.

How I became radicalized

September 14, 2016

For most of my life, I thought my country was fundamentally sound and moving in the right direction.

I knew there were serious problems and injustices in American life, but I thought that these were aberrations, contrary to our democratic ideals, which under our democratic system would be reformed over time.

radicalismstock-photo-fake-dictionary-dictionary-definition-of-the-word-radicalism-180290102I rejected the Communist belief that the crimes of capitalism are systemic, while the failures of Communism are failures to correctly understand or follow Marxist doctrine.

But my own beliefs were the mirror image of this.  I believed that the crimes of Communist countries were the inevitable result of a bad system, while the crimes of Western countries were aberrations that could be corrected.

The first step in my radicalization was the passage of the USA Patriot Act in October 2001.  I was shocked at how fundamental liberties, such as habeas corpus and trial by jury, could be simply wiped off the blackboard, and the majority of Americans would see nothing wrong with this.

I always thought of torture as the ultimate crime against humanity, because it destroys the mind and soul while leaving the body alive.   Torture became institutionalized, and even popular—possibly because of the illusion that it would be limited to people with brown skins and non-European names.

But I still thought of this as an aberration, part of a scheme by Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and others to restore executive power that had been lost after the Watergate hearings.  I voted for Barack Obama with great enthusiasm in 2008, not because I believed he would be a strong reformer, but because I thought he would restore the country to normal.

I soon learned that there was a new normal, one that was different from what I thought it was.


How will President Obama be remembered?

September 3, 2015

Future generations of Americans will surely look back at President Obama as not just a con-man, but as someone who blew several trillion dollars on continued wars around the globe; as someone who terminally destroyed the Bill of Rights and the Constitution, instead of rescuing these documents as promised; and as the president who, when given the last real opportunity to reverse climate change, ducked the challenge and pandered to the corporations that selfishly wanted short-term gain over long-term survival for humanity and the biosphere.

Source: Is Obama the Worst President Ever? by David Lindorff for Counterpunch

In 2000, I in my foolishness thought that the country would be reasonably safe no matter whether Al Gore or George W. Bush was elected.  I thought both were cautious, reasonable leaders who might not be strong reformers, but in whose hands the country would be safe.

I thought—such was my naivete—that it was a good thing that the inexperienced George W. Bush was guided by wise old Dick Cheney.

My moment of radicalization came with the USA Patriot Act.   President Bush with the support of a majority in
Congress tore up not only the Bill of Rights, but basic principles of the rule of law that went back to Magna Carta.

He invaded Iraq, a country that did not threaten the United States, and turned it into a hellhole of lawless, warring factions and a breeding ground for the terrorists the U.S. supposedly was against.  At home, he gave free rein to reckless Wall Street speculators and manipulators to crash the housing market and the stock market.

gallery-1432843145-obama-hope-poster1I voted for Barack Obama in 2008 not with the hope that he would be the second coming of Franklin D. Roosevelt, but that he would return the country to what I regarded as normal—that he would at minimum be a Gerald Ford who obeyed the laws and the Constitution and didn’t start wars.

Instead he doubled down on the Bush policies.  He invaded Libya and sponsored a proxy war against Syria, two other countries that never threatened the United States, resulting, as in Iraq, in thousands of harmless people being killed, raped and driven from their homes and in terrorists gaining new footholds.

While Bush claimed the right to imprison people in his sole discretion, Obama claims the right to kill people at his sole discretion.  And he has bailed out Wall Street bankers and financiers whose manipulations caused the 2008 financial crash while protecting them from prosecution.

The worst thing Obama has done is to use his great political talent to persuade liberals and progressives that what he represents is the best that can be hoped for.

The Obama administration has done good things, such as the NLRB’s recent joint employer decision, which wouldn’t have happened under a Republican administration.

But on the big life-or-death issues, I agree with David Lindorff.  Obama is even worse than George W. Bush.

Which doesn’t mean that his successor might not be worse still.


What we knew back then about Saddam

May 18, 2015

Matt Taibbi thinks it is silly to question Jeb Bush about what should have been done about Iraq “in the light of what we know now.”  Any sensible American knew enough then to realize what a bad idea invading Iraq was, he wrote.

The Iraq invasion was always an insane exercise in brainless jingoism that could only be intellectually justified after accepting a series of ludicrous suppositions.

dick-quizFirst you had to accept a fictional implied connection between Saddam Hussein and 9/11. Then you had to buy that this heavily-sanctioned secular dictator (and confirmed enemy of Islamic radicals) would be a likely sponsor of radical Islamic terror. Then after that you had to accept that Saddam even had the capability of supplying terrorists with weapons that could hurt us (the Bush administration’s analysts famously squinted so hard their faces turned inside out trying to see that one).

And then, after all that, you still had to buy that all of these factors together added up to a threat so imminent that it justified the immediate mass sacrifice of American and Iraqi lives.

It was absurd, a whole bunch of maybes piled on top of a perhaps and a theoretically possible or two. O.J.’s lawyers would have been embarrassed by it.

via Rolling Stone.


Why liberals no longer believe Seymour Hersh

May 13, 2015

Bush liberals conservatives militarism

When George W. Bush was President, most liberals believed the exposes of investigative reporter Seymour Hersh.  Now that Barack Obama is President, they are more skeptical.

As Espeth Reeve pointed out in The New Republic, liberals and Hersh are no longer on the same page.

militarism Obama liberals conservativesLINKS

The Killing of Osama bin Laden by Seymour M. Hersh in the London Review of Books.

The Loneliness of Sy Hersh by Elspeth Reeve for The New Republic.

What’s the matter with us Americans?

January 14, 2015

Europeans think Americans have gone crazy.  Ann Jones, who has lived in Europe for decades, said her European friends once respected the United States, but no longer.  Here are questions she gets from her European friends.

  • Why would anybody oppose national health care?
  • How could you set up that concentration camp in Cuba and why can’t you shut it down?
  • How can  you pretend to be a Christian country and still carry out the death penalty?
  • Why can’t you Americans stop interfering with women’s health care?
  • cia-loves-u-760208Why can’t you understand science?
  • How can you still be so blind to the reality of climate change?
  • How can you speak of the rule of law when your presidents break international laws to make war whenever they want?
  • How can you hand over the power to blow up the planet to one lone, ordinary man?
  • How can you throw away the Geneva Conventions and your principles to advocate torture?
  • Why do you Americans like guns so much? Why do you kill each other at such a rate?
  • Why do you send your military all over the world to stir up trouble for the rest of us?

She added:

authoritarianism9fd18cThat last question is particularly pressing because countries historically friendly to the United States, from Australia to Finland, are struggling to keep up with an influx of refugees from America’s wars and interventions.

Throughout Western Europe and Scandinavia, right-wing parties that have scarcely or never played a role in government are now rising rapidly on a wave of opposition to long-established immigration policies.

Only last month, such a party almost toppled the sitting social democratic government of Sweden, a generous country that has absorbed more than its fair share of asylum seekers fleeing the shock waves of “the finest fighting force that the world has ever known.”


The passing scene: January 7, 2015

January 7, 2015

enhanced-buzz-wide-25305-1389933990-1160 Words and a War Without End: The Untold Story of the Most Dangerous Sentence in U.S. History by Gregory D. Johnson for BuzzFeed.

The Authorization for the Use of Military Force was intended to give President George W. Bush the authority to hunt down the terrorists who plotted the 9/11 attacks.  But President Bush and President Obama after him have used it as justification for any kind of covert or military action anywhere in the world that they deem necessary for national security.  This article tells how AUMF was enacted, and the debate over its meaning.

Nonviolent Conflicts in 2014 You May Have Missed Because They Were Not Violent by Erica Chenoweth for Political Violence @ A Glance.

Violent methods of struggle have more credibility than non-violent methods.  When mass defiance fails, it is seen as a reason to shift to violent struggle.  When violent struggle fails, it is seen as a reason to double down on violence.

FBI says search warrants not needed to use “stingrays” in public places by David Kravets for ars technica.

The FBI has erected fake cell phone towers which it uses to intercept and listen in on cell phone conversations.

Bernie Sanders Brutal Letter on Obama’s Trade Pact Foreshadows 2016 Democratic Clash by Zach Carter for Huffington Post.

Why the Tech Elite Is Getting Behind Universal Basic Income by Nathan Schneider for Vice News.


The passing scene: November 8, 2014

November 8, 2014

What the Election Means for the Republican Brand by Daniel McCarthy for The American Conservative.

Can a party philosophically defined by Fox News win millennial voters and the electorate of the future?  Daniel McCarthy wrote that they can win only if there’s no-one well organized enough to complete with them.

The well-oiled machinery of movement conservatism remains in the hands of those who think the only trouble with George W. Bush is that he didn’t go far enough, McCarthy wrote.

Lame duck Obama’s brave new world by Pepe Escobar for Asia Times.

Election of a Republican majority in the Senate means no possibility of agreement with Iran on nuclear weapons and fighting ISIS, no possibility of agreement with Russia on Ukraine and Middle East issues, and no possibility of action of climate change.

On the brighter side, Republicans, out of spite, will probably the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement, with its investor-state provisions to block environmental and financial regulation.  The one thing the GOP and Obama administration will agree on is the so-called global war on terror.

As US and China meet at APEC summit, a drama involving billions in trade by Peter Ford for Christian Science Monitor.

China, which is excluded from the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership agreement, will launch a Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific agreement as an alternative.  All 21 members of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation group will be eligible to join.

The New York Times doesn’t want you to understand this Vladimir Putin speech by Patrick L. Smith for Salon.

The Hidden Author of Putinism by Peter Pomerantsev for The Atlantic.

Vladimir Putin is right to insist on the rule of law in international affairs for everyone, including the United States.  The fact that the rule of law is not observed in Russia’s internal affairs is a separate question.

The Hospital’s Duty of Care by Greg Pond for MRSA Topic, a blog devoted to infectious disease.  (Hat tip to Mike the Mad Biologist)

About 8,000 Canadians die every year of hospital-acquired infections.  That’s because physicians and nurses are too under-staffed and over-worked to have time to wash their hands after every interaction with patients.   I’m sure that U.S. hospitals are no better.  This is a much more serious public health threat to North Americans, at this point, than Ebola.

Obama and peace: Links & comments 9/12/14

September 12, 2014


See What was fake on the Internet this week! .

Nobel Committee Regrets Obama Peace Prize: official statement.

Barack Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009 before he had an opportunity as President to do much of anything either for or against world peace.

Their thinking arose out of a relief that George W. Bush was no longer President, and a hope that the Peace Prize award would motivate him to be a peacemaker.

His response, when receiving the prize, was to lecture the Norwegian Nobel Institute on the evils of pacifism and the responsibility of the United States to use military force for good objectives.

The Nobel Committee stated that awarding the Peace Prize seemed at the time like a good way of advancing peace, but now this is no longer the case.

Does anybody know of any precedent for the Nobel Committee expressing regret at the awarding of any previous prize?  I can’t think of any.

Obama just announced he wants to help the guys who kidnaped Steven Sotloff by Joseph Cannon for Cannonfire (via Naked Capitalism).

President Obama’s policy is to help the Free Syrian Army as an alternative to both Bashar al-Assad’s government and the Islamic State (ISIS) forces in Syria.  But evident it was the FSA to kidnapped the American reporter, Steven Sotloff and sold him to ISIS so they could make a video of him being beheaded.

The various militias fighting the Assad government are more alike than they are different.  For one thing, they all want to wipe out Syria’s ancient Christian community.

Could Jim Webb Mount a Credible Challenge to Clinton? by Albert R. Hunt for BloombergView.

I admire Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts for her willingness to take on Wall Street financiers, but she is a down-the-line supporter of the Obama administration’s war policies.  Former Senator James Webb of Virginia is not only anti-Wall Street, but anti-interventionist and opposed to the drug laws that have resulted in mass incarceration of young black people.

Webb is a former Marine, a decorated combat veteran of Vietnam, a novelist and former Secretary of the Navy in the Reagan administration.  He broke with the Republican Party because he opposed the George W. Bush administration’s war policies and its captivity to Wall Street.   Unfortunately the Obama administration was no improvement, and Hillary Clinton would be even worse.

Webb is an opponent of gun control, has reservations about feminism (especially as applied to the military) and differs with many Democrats on social issues that are dear to their hearts.  I don’t think any of these things matter so much as peace, economic justice and fundamental civil liberties.

Mark Mazzetti on The Way of the Knife

June 2, 2014

Lt. Col. John Paul Vann famously said during the Vietnam War that the best weapon in a war against insurgents was a knife, and the worst possible weapon was a bomb.   That is, in order to win, it is necessary to kill your enemies without killing indiscriminately and making new enemies.

Unfortunately for the United States, our armed forces in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan used the way of the bomb against enemies who used the way of the knife.

I recently finished reading THE WAY OF THE KNIFE: The CIA, a Secret Army and a War at the Ends of the Earth by Mark Mazzetti (2013), which is a study of the American attempt to substitute targeted killing for indiscriminate killing and why it failed.

wayoftheknifeIt is based on interviews with members of the CIA and Special Operations forces as well as freelance operatives.  Mazzetti is fair to their point of view and to the risks they ran to do their duty as they saw it.  He gives a good picture of the war on terror as they experienced it.

His book is excellent for what it is, keeping in mind that it does not deal with the war as experienced by civilians on the ground nor does it explore the higher-level economic and geo-political aims of the war (controlling oil, containing Russia and China).

The Central Intelligence Agency and the Pentagon have become powers unto themselves, with their own policy agendas that are separate from that of the elected leadership .

This is not only a problem of implementation of military and foreign policy.  It is a Constitutional question which calls into question the possibility of limiting power by means of checks and balances.

Leon Panetta as a congressman was a strong critic of the CIA.  But when President Obama appointed him director of the CIA, he was warned of the danger of endangering CIA “morale,” which, according to Mazzetti, he took as a veiled warning.  Panetta quickly became a strong advocate for the CIA’s viewpoint within the administration.  And the Obama administration itself doubled down on the policies for which Barack Obama as candidate criticized the Bush administration.

Instead of checks and balances, the government has an internal conflict between the CIA and the Pentagon.  The CIA does not trust the Pentagon to react quickly and has developed its own para-military forces.   The Pentagon does not trust the CIA’s intelligence and has developed its own sources of intelligence.  In general, the CIA works with intelligence services of foreign governments, such as Pakistan, while the Pentagon regards them as quasi-enemies.

The CIA and Pentagon operate independently of each other, and often disrupt each others’ missions.  Then there are mercenaries, and independent operators which are only loosely controlled by the U.S. government.

American foreign policy is implemented and largely determined by the CIA and Pentagon.  The State Department and career diplomats have no say at all, as has been made clear at top-level meetings.


Why do so many politicians seem crazy?

April 8, 2014

            “Narcissism is closely allied with demented self-confidence: hubris. In his book The Hubris Syndrome: Bush, Blair, and the Intoxication of Power, the politician and medical doctor David Owen suggests that ‘there is a pattern of hubristic behavior manifest in the behavior of some leaders, particularly political leaders, which could legitimately be deemed to constitute a medically recognized syndrome,’ which he calls the hubristic syndrome. It afflicts some political leaders, but not all. Owen believes that it derives from some sort of narcissistic personality disorder, but goes beyond that. Its consequences throughout human history have been disastrous. Owen suggests that a sprinkling of behavioral symptoms from the following list characterizes this disorder:

George W. Bush

George W. Bush

—A narcissistic propensity to see the world primarily as an arena in which they can exercise power and seek glory rather than as a place with problems that need approaching in a pragmatic and non-self-referential manner;

            —a predisposition to take actions which seem likely to cast them in a good light—i.e., in order to enhance their image;

            —a disproportionate concern with image and presentation;

            —a messianic manner of talking about what they are doing and a tendency to exaltation;

            —an identification of themselves with the state to the extent that they regard the outlook and interests of the two as identical;

            —a tendency to talk of themselves in the third person or using the royal “we”;

            —excessive confidence in their own judgment and contempt for the advice or criticism of others;

            —exaggerated self-belief, bordering on a sense of omnipotence, in what they personally can achieve;

Tony Blair

Tony Blair

            —a belief that rather than being accountable to the mundane court of colleagues or public opinion, the real court to which they answer is much greater: History or God;

            —an unshakeable belief that in that court they will be vindicated;

            —recklessness, restlessness, and impulsiveness;

            —a tendency to allow their “broad vision,” especially their conviction of the moral rectitude of a proposed course of action, to obviate the need to consider other aspects of it, such as its practicality, cost, and the possibility of unwanted outcomes;

            —a consequent type of incompetence in carrying out a policy, which could be called hubristic incompetence. This is where things go wrong precisely because too much self-confidence has led the leader not to bother worrying about the nuts and bolts of a policy. It can be allied to an incurious nature.

Owen details the way in which George W. Bush., and more especially Tony Blair, eventually checked all these sinister boxes as their period in power unfolded. Margaret Thatcher had previously become another victim, and history shows many precursors.”

—SIMON BLACKBURN, Mirror, Mirror: The Uses and Abuses of Self-Love (Princeton 2014), pages 68-69.


Bush, Obama and the federal deficit

October 2, 2013

deficits-since-2000The great economist, John Maynard Keynes, said that governments should set taxes and expenditures so that they run a surplus when times were good and a deficit when times are bad, but balance over the period of the economic cycle.   This is much like the advice that Joseph gave to Pharaoh in the Bible.

The Clinton administration, with maybe some nudging from Republicans in Congress, followed that advice.   Bill Clinton was lucky in his timing.  He came into office at the start of an economic recovery and got out before the next crash.

The boom in itself helped bring the government’s budget into balance.  Tax revenues increased, and it was easier to cut spending.  Clinton made good use of that opportunity.  A commission headed by Vice President Al Gore streamlined the government so that, at the end of his administration, there was less spending (in inflation-adjusted dollars) and fewer civilian employees [1] than at the beginning.

Clinton persuaded Congress to increase taxes [2] by a few percentage points, which also helped.  Taxes still were low compared to what they were prior to the Reagan era.

I don’t think increasing taxes makes it easier to spend money.  On the contrary, the fact that it is necessary to pay for what is spent creates an incentive to avoid unnecessary spending.

President George W. Bush changed this.  He persuaded Congress to cut tax rates while launching an expensive war.  Nevertheless, the economic recovery during his administration brought the federal budget closer to being in balance, until the crash.

Notice that a fiscal year starts on October 1 of the previous year.  Thus fiscal 2001 began on Oct. 1, 2000, and fiscal 2009 began on Oct. 1, 2008.  This means the first Bush budget was in 2002 and the first Obama budget was in 2010.


In 2010, the first Obama budget, the federal budget deficit began to close.  Maybe the need to appease Republicans in Congress had something to do with this.  Maybe the decrease is not enough since, even though the deficit is being reduced, it still exists and the debt in cumulative.   I won’t argue either point.

What I will argue is that if budget balance is your main priority, the Clinton era shows how to do it.  Cut unnecessary spending, raise enough taxes to cover the rest and hope for economic growth.


Counting the costs of the Iraq war

March 21, 2013

Bush administration spokesmen said the invasion of Iraq was going to be a cakewalk, and the cost would be paid out of Iraq oil revenues.  Ten years later, we know the true costs.



Click to enlarge.

For details, click on The Iraq War Ledger by the Center for American Progress.

Also click on Invading Iraq: What We Were Told at the Time by James Fallows of The Atlantic Monthly.


Why I was wrong about the Iraq invasion

March 20, 2013

George Orwell wrote somewhere that a good way to maintain a sense of humility is to keep a diary of your political opinions.  Looking back on what you thought five or ten years before will remind you of your fallibility.

Saddam Hussein

Saddam Hussein

The United States and its Coalition partners began military operations against Iraq 10 years ago today.  I didn’t keep a diary, but I well remember what I thought then.

I was aware that the claims that Saddam Hussein was harboring weapons of mass destruction were based on faked evidence.  I knew that far from being implicated in the 9/11 attacks, the secular nationalist Saddam was hated by Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda.  I feared that starting a war on the basis of a lie could come back to haunt us Americans, and yet I hoped it might turn out well.

This would not have been the first war launched by the United States on the basis of a lie.  The Mexican War was started on the basis of the lie that Mexican troops had fired on American troops on American soil.  The Spanish-American War was started on the basis of the lie that the Spanish blew up the battleship Maine in Havana harbor.  The Vietnam intervention was authorized on the basis of the lie that the North Vietnamese had attacked American ships in the Gulf of Tonkin.  Yet the first two of these wars turned out well—that is, well from the American perspective, not from the point of view of the victims of aggression.

iraq_oil_map485I thought it possible that the Iraq invasion would turn out well for all concerned.  Iraq was ruled by a cruel and hated dictator.  I thought that after U.S. forces liberated Iraq from the dictator, Iraq would become a country whose people were friendly to the United States, and whose rulers would be more dependable military allies and oil suppliers than the royal family of Saudi Arabia.

In addition, the United States had been waging a low-level war against Iraq for more than 10 years, following Operation Desert Storm in 1991.  All through the Clinton administration, Iraq was under economic blockade, with intermittent bombing, which had caused enormous hardship and suffering.  I thought that the human suffering from a quick invasion.

The George W. Bush administration quickly proved me wrong.  Military forces occupied the Iraqi oil ministry and oil fields, and let the rest of the country sink into chaos.  Local Iraqi leaders were pushed aside, and U.S. appointees installed in their place.  For some reason, the Iraqi military was disbanded, but individual soldiers were allowed to keep their weapons, when the obviously sensible thing to do would have been to confiscate the weapons but keep the soldiers on a payroll and under control.  American commanders installed themselves in some of Saddam Hussein’s old palaces, and sent prisoners to his old torture chamber in Abu Ghraib.

But even if the Bush administration had been sincerely interested in creating a democratic Iraq, this probably would not have been feasible for a foreign invading army to do.  I went through the same stages in my thinking about Iraq that I did about Vietnam, but over a shorter period of time—from thinking U.S. policy was flawed but justified to thinking that U.S. policy was a big mistake to thinking that U.S. policy was a crime. Of course it should have been obvious in both cases that unleashing total war on a small country that does not threaten you is a crime.

I was wrong about Iraq, and wiser friends of mine were right.  Now I was not a decision-maker, or even, in those days, a blogger.  My wrongness had few consequences.  But I am an American citizen.  Politicians ultimately answer to the citizens.  I have my small share of the responsibility for the Iraq tragedy.


Benchmarking the U.S. employment recovery

September 26, 2012

Double click to enlarge.

Double click to enlarge.

I’ve posted a number of charts like the one at top showing how much worse the current employment recovery is than the recoveries following previous recessions since World War Two.   But the second chart provides another and maybe more meaningful comparison—the U.S. recovery versus employment recoveries in foreign nations following financial crises.  The current U.S. recovery is not out of line with the experience of foreign nations.

The most significant comparison, though, is with the current U.S. recovery, shown by the thick red line, with the aftermath of the 1929 stock market crash, shown by the dotted black line.  What it indicates to me was that the United States was on a slide toward another Great Depression, like that of the 1930s, but that the slide was prevented by the bank bailouts and the Obama stimulus plan.

I’ve criticized the Obama administration for failing—really, not seriously attempting—to put anything in place that would prevent a repetition of the recent financial crash.  The Obama administration has blocked prosecution of financial fraud and meaningful legislation to regulate or break up the “too big to fail” banks, while the Federal Reserve Board, through its Qualitative Easing programs, has given money to the big Wall Street banks at near-zero interest rates without any requirement that the money be lent in the real American economy.  I think the United States is on track for a bigger crash and a bigger bailout, if indeed a bailout is possible the next time around.

But give credit where credit is due.  The swift action of the Bush administration, the teamwork of the Bush and Obama administrations during the transition, and Obama administration’s follow-through prevented a collapse of the financial system, and the Obama stimulus plan also helped shore up the economy.   I can’t prove this.  There is no way to turn back the calendar and see what would have happened with no bailout and no stimulus, but I think the Hoover administration’s experience after 1929 provides a good indication of what would have happened.   But now that the collapse has been averted, the U.S. government and banking system is busy recreating the circumstances that led to the collapse in the first place.

Click on Does this graph prove the recovery has been impressive, after all? for the thoughts of Ezra Klein on the Washington Post’s Wonkblog.

Click on Checking In on Financial Crisis Recoveries for the source of the chart in a report by Josh Lehner of the Oregon Office of Economic Analysis.

How Obama has surpassed Bush

July 19, 2012

David Boaz of the Cato Institute has combed through the statistics, and unearthed achievements in which President Obama can justly claim to have surpassed President Bush:

Most deportations.  Despite his endorsement of the DREAM Act, President Obama has deported more illegal immigrants than any president in history. He’s been deporting about 400,000 people a year, about double the number in the George W. Bush administration.

Most leaks prosecutions.  The Obama administration has been criticized for leaking classified information in a series of campaigns to portray the president as a tough, engaged commander-in-chief. But meanwhile the administration information has used the 1917 Espionage Act to target suspected leakers in twice as many cases as all previous presidential administrations combined.

Most troops in Afghanistan.  The United States had about 30,000 troops in Afghanistan during 2008, the last year of President Bush’s term. By the end of 2010, President Obama had increased that number to almost 100,000. It’s down to about 88,000 now, which still might surprise people who recall candidate Obama’s ringing antiwar speeches of 2008. 

Most medical marijuana raids … …

Most drone strikes.  President Obama doesn’t like the way the Bush administration treated prisoners at Guantanamo, so he’s taking fewer prisoners. The Obama administration has carried out at least 308 covert drone strikes in Pakistan, more than five times the 44 approved under Bush.

Most fundraisers.  All presidents spend a lot of their time fundraising. But President Obama leads the league. Political scientist Brendan J. Doherty, author of the new book The Rise of the President’s Permanent Campaign, reports that Obama had held 104 fundraisers by March 6, compared to 94 held by Presidents Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush combined [at the same point in the years they campaigned for reelection]. CBS News White House correspondent Mark Knoller noted that by June 12 Obama had done 160 re-election fundraisers, twice as many as Bush by the same point in 2004.

Click on Obama’s Accomplishments to read Boaz’s whole article.  I don’t agree with Boaz that the failed recovery is because President Obama has weighed down the economy with taxes, spending and regulation.  The total U.S. tax burden is at a low point, the Obama administration is looking at cutbacks in Social Security and Medicare and the big Wall Street and energy companies ought to be regulated more than they are.  In these respects, too, the Obama and Bush administrations are more alike than they are different.

Click on George W. Obama? for an article about the Obama administration has followed in the footsteps of the Bush administration by David W. Bromwich of Yale.  [Added 7/20/12]

Click on Obama May Not Even Be the Lesser Evil for a comparison of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney by Andrew Levine of Counterpunch.

How different is Obama from Bush?

June 22, 2011

Back in early 2008, I liked to joke that in order to get my vote, a Presidential candidate would have to be a carbon-based bipedal life form who was not George W. Bush.

I voted for Barack Obama, but I am having a hard time seeing differences between his administration from what a third-term George W. Bush would have done?

Click to view

Not everything George W. Bush did was bad, and I don’t say that President Obama has to be the opposite of Bush in all respects.  But what I hoped was that he would bring an end to abuse of power and restore the rule of law.  I hoped that if he could not be another Franklin Roosevelt or John F. Kennedy, he would at least be another Gerald Ford or Jimmy Carter – decent moderate leaders who obeyed the law and the Constitution.  This was not to be.

George W. Bush got Congressional approval for war against Iraq under false pretenses.  Barack Obama is taking the United States into war with Libya without even asking for Congressional approval.  Under George W. Bush, the United States created an archipelago of secret torture centers; like the gulag archipelago described by Alexander Solzhenitsyn, it is a secret world unto itself.  Barack Obama has continued these torture centers, while making a half-hearted gesture toward closing the one at Guantanamo Bay.

A number of Presidents, going back to John F. Kennedy, secretly plotted the assassination of foreign leaders; President Obama openly claims the right to sign death warrants for anyone he deems a terrorist.  What is a terrorist?  It is whoever Obama says is a terrorist.  Somebody in the Defense Department wrote a memo saying anti-war activity is low-level terrorism.

The Obama administration is prosecuting a whistleblower for revealing waste and mismanagement in the National Security Agency.  I have always been proud that the United States did not have any equivalent to Britain’s Official Secrets Act, a law dating from World War One which essentially gives the British government the power to prosecute anybody who reveals anything that the government wishes to keep secret.  Now the Obama administration interprets the U.S. Espionage Act, dating from the same period, as giving it the same authority.


The kind of political rhetoric we need

January 14, 2011

The burden of regulation

December 29, 2010

As some scholars are pointing out, the George W. Bush era was one of increasing government regulation, but, as this chart shows, it was narrowly focused.

Michael Mandel pointed this out in an article on his web log.

Yes, protecting us against terrorists, for sure, and doing a good job…but in the process making it more difficult for foreign business execs, scientists, and engineers to enter the country…and slowing down air travel…and  forcing telecom companies to open up holes in their systems….and so forth.

I’m not arguing that these actions are or are not necessary. But many of the mandates created by  Homeland Security are de facto regulations that have imposed an enormous economic burden on the country over the past ten years.

Mike Konzai responded on his Rortybomb web log with the above chart and more detailed analysis. As he noted, financial regulation was kept to a minimum.  The number of employees of the Office of Thrift Supervision declined (you would expect a slight increase to keep up with population growth).  The Commodity Futures Trading Commission had a mere 122 employees, the lowest level since 1984, attempting to track a financial services industry with thousands and thousands of employees.  At the same time the Patent and Trademark Office beefed up its staff, as did the Drug Enforcement Administration.

The Bush era brought you a regulatory state of militarized borders, drug wars, strategically weakened financial regulatory bodies for convenient regulatory shopping, and aggressive use of patents to shut down competition. This is not the regulatory state I fight for.


The crime of torture is bipartisan

November 12, 2010

When George W. Bush was in office, he denied that the United States government engaged in torture.  Under his administration, eleven National Guard soldiers were court-martialed, convicted, sent to military prison and dishonorably discharged for engaging in torture.

Now, in his memoir, President Bush says his administration did torture – or at least do things that are defined as torture when foreign governments do it – and he is proud of it.  He said it was legal because one of his legal advisers told him it was legal.

My guess is that Lynndie England and Charles Graner, who are still serving time for acts of torture, thought that what they were doing was legal.  If that is an excuse, shouldn’t they go free?

President Barack Obama denies that the United States government engages in torture any more.  But he refuses to permit an investigation of the Bush administration’s crimes, or to permit independent human rights organizations to inspect secret prisons such as the one outside Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan.

I wonder what he will say about torture in his memoirs.


A question I never thought I’d ask

August 31, 2010


Obama’s Katrina?

June 22, 2010

Hurricane Katrina was a predictable natural disaster which the federal government failed to avert and to prepare for.

Deepwater Horizon was a preventable human-caused disaster which the federal government failed to avert and to prepare for.

The Bush administration failed to provide funds to repair and maintain the dams and levees surrounding New Orleans, despite warnings they were inadequate. The Bush administration then appointed political hacks to manage the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other federal agencies, which then predictably failed to do their jobs.

The Obama administration has so far failed to change things back.  The Minerals Management Service continued to fail to enforce regulations requiring oil drillers in the Gulf to maintain best practices. Without absolving BP management of responsibility, it is predictable that when regulations are not enforced, somebody is going to ignore them.  And when there is a competitive economic advantage to be gained by cutting corners, eventually everybody is going to do it.

The federal government has responded massively to the Deepwater Horizon disaster, but reports from the Gulf say that federal, state and local efforts are poorly-coordinated – in other words, the FEMA is still not doing its job.

Even after President Obama announced a moratorium on new drilling in the Gulf, the MMS continued to approve new drilling applications, and without doing any more checking than it did with BP.  Maybe some of these other oil companies are more responsible than BP, but there is no way to know if they are.

Ken Salazar, Obama’s Secretary of the Interior, was quickly confirmed by the Senate because he was acceptable to the oil and gas industry.  If President Obama had nominated somebody who really would have cracked down on the oil industry, he would have faced a big floor fight and maybe a Republican filibuster.  In retrospect, he would have done better, even from the standpoint of political expediency, to have made that fight.

I blame George W. Bush and Barack Obama for the government’s failures in the Gulf because the alternative is to admit that it is impossible for the government to do its job. If this is so, then U.S. decline is inevitable and irreversible.


The terrorists have won

May 17, 2010

After the 9/11 attacks, George W. Bush said the jihadist terrorists hate us Americans because of our freedoms. Ever since, we Americans have responded to each attempted terrorist attack – the most recent by a guy too incompetent to set gasoline on fire – by surrendering one more freedom to Big Brother.  If the purpose of terrorism is to terrorize, the terrorists are succeeding. They have turned the land of the free and the home of the brave into a nation of ‘scaredy cats.

I was sickened by the USA Patriot Act and the George W. Bush administration’s embrace of torture. We Americans in our history have been guilty of lynch law and mob violence, but the cold cruelty practiced by the KGB and the Gestapo historically has been alien to us.  I voted for Barack Obama with great enthusiasm because I thought he would restore constitutional government.

But President Obama has been worse – much worse – that President Bush.  He has not ended torture, merely relocated it.  He has asserted the right to order the killing of anyone, including American citizens, that the U.S. government in someone’s subjective judgment deems a terrorist.  He has asserted the right to strip Americans of their citizenship based on the same subjective judgment.  He wants deny basic constitutional rights to due process to anyone accused – not judged by any process – to be a terrorist.

People in villages in Afghanistan – people with the same inherent dignity as human beings that you and I have, people with no more personal guilt than the office workers in the World Trade Center – are routinely killed by predator missiles because somebody has made a determination that an insurgent is operating in their vicinity.

The crimes for which Richard M. Nixon was impeached are the equivalent of illegal parking compared to what is going on today.

But the responsibility is not Barack Obama’s.  It is mine.  My government every day commits crimes against humanity, as defined by international law, while I live my quiet, pleasant life and not only fail to do anything about it, but go whole days without thinking about it.

I don’t think the United States is the equivalent of Nazi Germany or any other dictatorship, but the administrative machinery and legal basis for a dictatorship are in place for anyone who cares to use them, while we Americans – myself included – come to accept things as normal that we once would have considered unspeakably evil.


Why I was wrong about Iraq and Afghanistan

March 17, 2010

Back in 2003, I thought the invasion of Iraq was a good idea.  Saddam Hussein was a manifestly evil tyrant, and it was obvious that the world would be better off without him.  Just as one detail, he issued a decree a couple of years before that anyone who spoke disrespectfully of him or his two sons would have their tongues cut out; Amnesty International found someone who had been subject to that punishment.

I felt shame that President George H.W. Bush after the 1991 Kuwait war had called upon the Iraqi people to rise up against Saddam Hussein and then permitted him to slaughter the rebels with helicopter gunships.  I felt that the prolonged low-level war waged under President Clinton, consisting of blockade plus intermittent bombing, caused as much suffering as a short full-scale war would have, but without threatening Saddam’s power. I further felt that the blockade was unsustainable, and would sooner or later fade away.

So I thought it a good idea to take advantage of the fact that Saddam was stockpiling weapons of mass destruction, and get rid of him for once and for all.  Even after the United Nations debates, when it became apparent that the evidence against Saddam was fraudulent, I still had mixed feelings.  The Mexican War and the Spanish-American were launched on faked evidence, and nobody today cares (except Mexicans and Spaniards).  If the United States liberated Iraq, there would a major oil-producing nation in the heart of the Middle East with a democratic government in which Americans were popular.  Or so I thought.

It only took a couple of weeks to show how wrong such thinking was.  But sometimes I think that if only the U.S. government had acted more wisely, if it hadn’t reduced the country to a state of anarchy, if it hadn’t disbanded the Iraqi army while allowing soldiers to keep their weapons, if it hadn’t allowed the arsenals to be looted, if it had recognized the spontaneous elections held in different Iraqi cities, if it had employed Iraqis in rebuilding their country rather than turning it into a bonanza for American contractors, if it hadn’t made so transparent a grab for control of Iraqi oil, if only a lot of other things … then things might have been different, but probably not.

In 2004, like Senator John Kerry, I thought the real fight was in Afghanistan, whose government harbored the al Qaeda conspirators who planned the 9/11 attacks.  I thought our troops belonged in Afghanistan tracking down Osama bin Laden, not in Iraq.  By 2008, President Bush announced the start of a phased withdrawal from Iraq, which is being continued by President Obama.

President Obama  inherited the situation, as President Nixon inherited the Vietnam War in 1969. What Obama appears to want in Afghanistan, like Nixon in Vietnam, is a way to withdraw from the situation without suffering a humiliating defeat and leaving the country in chaos.  To accomplish this, he is like Nixon and Kissinger, escalating  the war while offering negotiations; without the escalation, there is nothing to negotiate with.  I’m not sure this will work any better in Afghanistan than it did in Vietnam.

You may ask why you should take my opinion seriously, when I’ve admitted I been wrong so many times in the past.  I hope I am wrong.  I would have been happy if President Bush had proved me wrong about Iraq. I will be pleased if President Obama proves me wrong about Afghanistan.

Iraq invasion, seventh anniversary

March 17, 2010

Two friends of mine, Hal Bauer and Hank Stone, have been taking part in a peace vigil every Sunday – rain, shine or snow – which began immediately after the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. This coming Sunday their vigil will mark the seventh anniversary of the invasion of Iraq.

The vigil is sponsored by Peace Action and Education, an affiliate of Metro Justice; Rochester Against War; Progressives in Action; and Genesee Valley Citizens for Peace. Hal tells me they haven’t changed their anti-Bush signs because, as far as they’re concerned, President Obama’s policies are merely a continuation of President Bush’s.