This whole week is going to be about Republicans talking about how Bush is the "firm" leader, "consistent", "steadfast". They will seek to oppose this vision of their man with what they will call the "inconstant" and "unsteady" Kerry. We have seen this already with the early speeches by Guliani and Koch and others. I'm just hoping that the Kerry campaign -- or a 527 -- has prepared a President Bush Flip Flop ad for playing during the so-called "bounce" period next week and after.
Bush has made so many contradictory statements, reversed course so often that clips from his speeches could easily fill out a 60-second commercial. For example:
- In September 2001 Bush claimed that capturing Bin Laden was our "number one priority". By March 2002, he was saying "I don't know where he is. I have no idea and I really don't care."
- In October 2001, he was publicly opposed to a Department of Homeland Security. Seven months later, he thought it was a great idea.
- In the debates in 2000, Bush said about same-sex marriage that the "states can do what they want to do.'' In 2004, he reversed himself, saying that "attempts to redefine marriage in a single state or city could have serious consequences."
- In May 2002, he opposed the creation of the 9/11 commission. Four months later, he supported it.
- In October 2000, Bush said "I don't think our troops ought to be used for what's called nation-building." Since then, he has praised nation-building invasions of Afghanistan, Haiti and Iraq.
- For years Bush has been telling us he can win the war on terrorism. Yesterday he said "I don't think you can win it." And today, in an extraordinary conversation with Rush Limbaugh -- reaching out to his base, I guess -- Bush struggled to reverse himself from yesterday's speech.
The ad could close with pictures of Donald Rumsfeld shaking hands with Saddam Hussein back in 1988.
What a fine ad this would make.
And In The Red Corner ...
Convicted murderer and fraudulent exploiter of black youth extraordinaire, Don King, has made an appearance at the Republican National Convention to show his support for George Bush who, the promoter informs us, "gives comfort to all Americans, friend and foe alike."
Odd how I've missed that.
Asked by CNN if he had voted for Bush in 2000, "Republicrat" King said: "I don't really know. I'll have to go back and check my notes."
Took just one too many in the head, eh, Don?
Red Tulips II
Mirror, mirror ...
The spiritual head of the Roman Catholics in Scotland, Cardinal Keith O'Brien, has criticised the Scottish government's new plans for sex education in schools. He suggests that the plan is akin to "state-sponsored sexual abuse" of children.
The very idea that in this day and age a Catholic leader can deign to lecture others on the sexual abuse of children would be funny if it wasn't so sad and perverse.
Where Has All the Money Gone?
The other day I came across the "Sanders Hypothesis", a fascinating document that I will be using in a longer piece on the unequal economy over the next few days. However, something intrigued me in particular and I wanted to put it out for discussion early.
The Sanders document includes the following graphic:
We know that we are spending as much now on "defence" as we ever did in the Cold War. And yet the number of American jobs being supported is decreasing. How can that be? I have two suggestions.
One: the guy Halliburton hires to sweep the U.S. barracks in Kazakhstan does not come from Oregon or Oklahoma, and yet the US taxpayer foots the bill;
Two: Excessive profits to stakeholders, and excessive profits in the form of exorbitant managerial remuneration.
This evening we went to see "Control Room", a documentary about Al-Jazeera.
This film is a marvelous piece of work that simply shows Al-Jazeera doing their job in Iraq from two days before the US started bombing last year until the tanks took over Baghdad's central square. The filmmaker's sympathy with Al-Jazeera is clear but, unlike "Fahrenheit 911" for example, the bias such as it is is completely subsumed within the documentary form. There is no Michael Moore-style narrator, just interviews and straightforward documentary coverage of what is happening in the Al-Jazeera and CentCom newsrooms. The Americans -- in the form of Donald Rumsfeld, Brigadier-General Brooks, media advisor Lt Rushing, and endless civilian casualties -- are allowed to make the filmakers' points for them.
The conservatives will find everything they need here, too. After all, several of Al-Jazeera's staff were happy to announce that they were not disinterested observers, that they had a specific point of view. But that too must backfire on the Americans. The Al-Jazeera staff are honest about their positions. As one of them says, how many of the US reporters can genuinely say they are unbiased, and yet they pretend to be fair and balanced.
"Fahrenheit 911" is a far more entertaining couple of hours, but I think "Control Room" tells a more interesting story.
No New Spanish Empire?
The right wing Spanish government of Jose Maria Aznar was a favourite of the American Empire, enthusiastically supporting Bush’s invasion of Iraq. To the Empire’s chagrin, Aznar’s popularity wasn’t so good at home and he was booted from office by the anti-war Socialists. While Aznar was still in office, he agreed wholeheartedly with the Bushite policy of regime change. Now, it seems, this agreement with regime change extended to aggressive acts on the Spanish regime's own behalf.
According to the Times of London:
”The plot involved the overthrow of the dictator, President Obiang Nguema [of Equitorial Africa], and the installation of Severo Moto, a veteran political exile in Spain who is backed by rich British businessmen.”This is the same greedy business that Maggie Thatcher's preternaturally greedy kid Mark is being detained for in South Africa. News of the coup surfaced when a planeload of mercenaries was stopped in Zimbabwe. The Times continues the story:
”As the mercenaries were allegedly completing their plans to topple Mr Obiang, two Spanish warships slipped out of the Rota naval base near Cádiz in January. The frigate Canarias was supported by a combat vessel Patiño with 500 crack troops and marines on board. No official announcement was made but those on board knew they were headed for Equatorial Guinea … But someone, South Africa is a suspect, told the Spanish press. The two warships docked in the Canary Islands and the apparent objective of their voyage was aborted …The coup in Equitorial African collapsed in the wake of the arrest of the mercenaries, and the old dictator stays in power. There is oil in the country so this won’t be the last coup on behalf of some company or another. However, what was interesting to me was a sentence buried in the story:
This week in Spain, various media reports suggest that Mr Moto, the veteran leader-in-exile of Equatorial Guinea, who has lived in Madrid for many years, was either on board one of the warships or had been flown to Mali in anticipation of a triumphant return to his fatherland.”
” Since Rota is a NATO base, used by the United States, one would assume that the US knew of the mission as well as their close allies, the British.”Given that one of the "crimes" Saddam was accused of was trying to overthrow neighbouring regimes, the hypocrisy of all this is astounding. But not surprising.
In this increasingly monitored world, Jim Sulkers found a way to evade the surveillance police -- he died and didn't tell anyone. His naturally-mummified body was finally found in his condo in Winnipeg on Wednesday about two years after he died.
Because no-one was notified of his death, his pension continued to be paid into his bank. Because his bank account continued to receive money, his standing order payments for bills and condo fees were paid each month. So long as everyone kept getting their money, no-one cared about the man.
That's what happens when life is treated as just another commodity.
Second Class Americans
It will probably come as no surprise that there was a time when I thought I could never agree with anything Pat Buchanan had to say. Then he loudly announced himself an anti-interventionist (a more polite term, perhaps, than isolationist). Although some of his motives may have been suspect, the result -- allowing sovereign nations to go about their business without big brother's interference -- could only be applauded.
Now he has shaken up the conservative tree once again with his open criticisms of Bush's talk of an economic recovery, a "new morning" for America:
"For scores of millions of U.S. workers, things are getting worse ... From the peak of employment in 2001 to the trough in 2003, 2.4 million U.S. jobs disappeared. Since recovery began, over a million jobs have been created. But that still leaves over a million jobs lost, plus millions of workers added in three years through immigration and natural population growth ... Is it morning in America again? Or are we breaking up into the 'two Americas'?"I have already written quite extensively on the growing inequality in the United States, and I am confident in declaring that the age of the two (or more) Americas arrived some while ago. Even the "recovery" in hiring that Buchanan was willing to grant has stalled. The latest figures show job openings at a much lower figure than economists predicted. Just to keep even with population growth, the US needs to add 140,000 to 150,000 jobs every month. To absorb new workers and to put the unemployed back in jobs, the market should be creating at least 250,000 to 300,000 jobs each month. The actual June and July figures of 78,000 and 32,000 respectively need to be seen in this light.
For all of Bush's talk that the income tax cuts he pushed through for the wealthy would drive the economy forward, an analysis by Mark Zandi of Economy.com, quoted at TomPaine.com, found
"very little boost from the tax cuts for the wealthy. Perhaps most important, Zandi found that a different policy—one based on quick and substantial relief to those most likely to spend (the unemployed, the strapped states and middle- and lower-income taxpayers)—would have generated more growth and 2 million more jobs.Even those with jobs are suffering under the Bush administration. Those who have lost good paying manufacturing jobs, and can actually find another job, generally find themselves in lower paying service-sector employment. This in turn is leading to an increase in the use of food stamps according to the government's own figures quoted by the Center on Budget Policies and Priorities:
"May 2004, the last month for which data are available, 23.9 million people participated in the Food Stamp Program ... Since its recent low point in July 2000, participation has increased by 7.1 million people, or 42 percent."Those employed are also losing their benefits at an alarming rate given the price of medical attention in the US.
" The number of Americans with employer-paid health coverage fell dramatically from 2001 to 2003, with about 9 million people losing coverage, according to a national study released Aug. 2. The Center for Studying Health System Change (HSC) said the proportion of Americans under 65 with employer coverage fell from 67% in 2001 to 63% in 2003 ... At present, about 43 million Americans have no health insurance coverage, either public or private. "Finally, and thinking of the middle-class that Bush claims to have put his "reforms" in place for, the early years of the 2000s have certainly seen a startling increase in home ownership, driven by easy credit and Administration urging. However, this too is an issue with dire consequences according to Dean Baker in the Nation.
"The crash of the housing market will not be pretty. It is virtually certain to lead to a second dip to the recession. Even worse, millions of families will see the bulk of their savings disappear as homes in some of the bubble areas lose 30 percent, or more, of their value. Foreclosures, which are already at near record highs, will almost certainly soar to new peaks ... In this context, it's especially disturbing that the Bush administration has announced that it is cutting back Section 8 housing vouchers, which provide rental assistance to low income families."One can discount the good-news rhetoric that the Bush Republicans will try to sell for the next three months. The fact is, the economy is a mess and whoever wins in November will have to pick up the pieces.