The Commons is a weblog for concerned citizens of southeast Iowa and their friends around the world. It was created to encourage grassroots networking and to share information and ideas which have either been suppressed or drowned out in the mainstream media.

"But if the cause be not good, the king himself hath a heavy reckoning to make, when all those legs and arms and heads, chopped off in battle, shall join together at the latter day and cry all 'We died at such a place;' some swearing, some crying for a surgeon, some upon their wives left poor behind them, some upon the debts they owe, some upon their children rawly left. I am afeard there are few die well that die in a battle; for how can they charitably dispose of any thing, when blood is their argument? Now, if these men do not die well, it will be a black matter for the king that led them to it; whom to disobey were against all proportion of subjection." (Henry V, Act V, Scene 4)

Monday, August 01, 2005

Matt Taibbi - HIGHLY IRREGULAR

HIGHLY IRREGULAR
The Ohio election story is going to come back.

MATT TAIBBI
NEWS & COLUMNS




I was in Washington last week, covering a story in Congress, when a friend invited me to a panel discussion in the basement of the Capitol building. I agreed before he told me what the subject was. Boy was I bummed when I saw the title on the e-circular:

What went wrong in Ohio? A Harper's Magazine Forum on Voting Irregularities in the 2004 Election.

Oh, Christ, not that, I thought. Like a lot of people in this country (and like most all of my colleagues in the journalism world), my instinctual reaction to the Ohio electoral-mess story has always been one of revulsion and irritation. Almost on principle I had refused even to look at any of the news stories surrounding the Ohio vote; there is a part of me that did not want to be associated with any sore-loser hysteria of the political margins, and in particular with this story, the great conspiratorial Snuffleupagus of the defeated left.

It had always seemed to me that I understood the psychology of the Ohio story without having to examine the facts involved. I thought the story appealed most directly to a group of people who were still reeling after 2000, an election which George W. Bush not only lost according to the popular vote, but plainly stole in the electoral college. The evidence for this theft has been there for everyone to see for five years now; few serious thinkers even dispute the matter anymore, just as few Democrats would even bother denying now that John Kennedy stole the 1960 election.

Yet, Bush remains president. And not only has he remained president, he hasn't even had the decency to act embarrassed about it. He's remained president right out in the open, in front of our faces, like he's proud of that shit.

For a certain segment of the population, this state of affairs must have been psychologically unacceptable. Somewhere deep inside, they must have been clinging to the absurd notion th"

Paul Krugman - Triumph of the Machine

Triumph of the Machine - New York Times
"The New York Times
August 1, 2005
Triumph of the Machine
By PAUL KRUGMAN

The campaign for Social Security privatization has degenerated into farce. The "global war on terrorism" has been downgraded to the "global struggle against violent extremism" (pronounced gee-save), which is just embarrassing. Baghdad is a nightmare, Basra is a militia-run theocracy, and officials are talking about withdrawing troops from Iraq next year (just in time for the U.S. midterm elections).

On the other hand, the administration is crowing about its success in passing the long-stalled energy bill, the highway bill and Cafta, the free-trade agreement with Central America. So is the Bush agenda stalled, or is it progressing?

The answer is that the administration is getting nowhere on its grand policy agenda. But it never took policy, as opposed to politics, very seriously anyway. The agenda it has always taken with utmost seriousness - consolidating one-party rule, and rewarding its friends - is moving forward quite nicely.

One of President Bush's great political talents is his ability to convince people who do care passionately about policy that he is one of them. Foreign-policy neoconservatives believe he shares their vision of a world transformed by American power. Economic conservatives believe he shares their dedication to dismantling the welfare state.

But a serious effort either to transform the world or to dismantle the welfare state would require sacrifices Mr. Bush hasn't been willing to make.

On the foreign policy front, the "Bush doctrine" of pre-emption and unilateralism sounded very impressive at first. But Mr. Bush's tough-guy attitude wasn't matched by his willingness to commit resources. His administration sought global dominance on the cheap, with an undermanned, underplanned invasion of Iraq that has, indeed, transformed the balance of power in the Middle East - in favor of Iran.

On the domestic policy front, talk of an "ownership society" appealed to conservatives who dreamed of rolling back the New Deal. But Mr. Bush has expanded, not reduced, middle-class entitlements. Only the poor and powerless have faced cuts. (I don't think those middle-class entitlements should be cut. But Mr. Bush claims to be against big government.)

Social Security privatization was to the crusade against the welfare state what the invasion of Iraq was to G-Save: an attempt to achieve radical goals on the cheap. Rather than openly propose reductions in entitlement spending, the administration tried to sell a phaseout of traditional Social Security benefits in return for the magic of investing. But the public didn't buy it.

So what about those legislative successes? Roy Blunt, the House Republican whip, called the victories "verification that this is a governing party." But governing means more than handing out goodies.

Let's start with the energy bill. Even the bill's supporters barely pretend that it will do anything to reduce America's dependence on imported oil. It's simply an exercise in corporate welfare, full of subsidies and targeted tax breaks.

Then there's the pork-stuffed highway bill. I guess we'll have to stop making fun of Japanese public works spending: now America, too, is building bridges to islands that have almost no inhabitants, but lie in the districts of influential legislators.

Finally, Cafta contains "free trade" in its title, but that's misleading. The administration rammed the bill through the House by, among other things, promising to limit imports of clothing from China; over all, the effect may well be to reduce, not increase, international trade. But pharmaceutical companies got measures that protect and extend their monopoly rights in Central America.

These bills don't have anything to do with governing, if governing means trying to achieve actual policy goals like energy independence or expanded trade. They're just machine politics at work, favors granted in return for favors received.

In fact, you can argue that the administration does a bad job at governing in part because its highest priority is always to reward its friends. Most notably, the Iraq venture would have had a better chance of succeeding if cronyism and corruption hadn't undermined reconstruction.

Still, Republicans should feel good. Those legislative successes show that the political machine can still deliver the goods, even at a time when a majority of Americans disapprove of Mr. Bush's leadership and believe that his administration deliberately misled us into war.



"
http://www.nytimes.com/2005/08/01/opinion/01krugman.html?pagewanted=print