Hello and welcome to my blog.
My wife and I retired and relocated to the Philippines, her native land, in August, 2005, and from the looks of things we couldn't have picked a better time to do so. Within this short period, it seems that America's retreat from reason which began in the 1980's and has accelerated since 2000 has become even more pronounced in these few short years. President Bush (who, by the way, says that he gets his instructions from God) has continued to wreak economic and social havoc in America.
Never has one president caused so much harm in so many different ways.
The Iraq war which Bush started based on lies , such as Saddarm's possessing weapons of mass destruction, is out of control and has resulted in the deaths of thousands of American troops and Iraqi civilians along with the depletion of our national treasure. Yet he has nevertheless managed to conflate Saddam Hussein with Osama bin Laden in the minds of the American people and convinced them that we are in Iraq to "fight for our freedom" instead for oil. For a more gripping protest to this madness than I could ever express, please see After Pats' Birthday. Another anatomy of Bush's deception is well documented in Exhaustive Review finds no link between Saddam, el Qaida
Meantime, the holier-than-thou Republican Administration has spun a web of corruption and greed. Dick Cheney and Halliburton, the company of which he is a former CEO, have profited immensely from past dealings with Iraq, and the war itself. See Cheney's. Lies about Halliburton & Iraq and Dick Cheney: War Profiteer. Bush's practice of cronyism in appointing hacks to important offices has done serious harm to the country. Witness the Hurricane Katrina preparations and aftermath disaster which was mainly due to the incompetence of the then head of FEMA, Mike Brown, whose sole qualification for the position was his experience as a horse rancher.
Another example of cronyism run wild is Daniel Cooper, who resigned under fire after stating that his bible study was more important than his job as Undersecretary of Veterans affairs. He purportedly used his office as part of a network that proselytizes government workers and military personnel in behalf of Campus Crusade for Christ instead of fulfilling his work responsibilities. Meantime, veterans disabilities claims under his watch have been neglected and are now heavily backlogged. See Embattled Veterans Official Resigns Post.
Bush and his appointees also politicized and undermined the functions of the Justice Department by appointing the unqualified Monica Goodling, who received her training from an poorly rated evangelical law school to a position of responsibility in the Justice Department (see Another Hearing, Another Monica. Further there was the manipulation of the Attorney General's office by the former head of that department, Alberto Gonzales, and the politically motivated firing of 8 employees from the United States Attorney's offices through the offices of (now former) White House Counsel Harriet Miers.
I could go on with this laundry list of the Administration's missteps and examples of ineptitude, but all these fiascoes and more are much better articulated in the book, American Theocracy by Kevin Phillips. However, what I want to point out here is the danger to America posed by the viciousness of Bush and the Republicans and and their willingness to stop at nothing to advance their agenda, such as the politically motivated impeachment of President Clinton for what were really nothing more than sexual indiscretions that hypocritical Republian politicians were found to be even more guilty. See Republican Sex Scandals Dwarf Those of Democrats.
The Republicans ruthlessness sabotaged the 2000 elections. The Florida Secretary of State in Florida, a Republican and co-Chairman of Bush's campaign there, refused to recuse herself in the disputed ballot count in that state, and the Supreme Court dominated by right-wing appointees of the Republicans, threw the Presidency to Bush.
According to a remarkable article "Learning from the Cultural Conservatives" the Right's (and by extension the Republicans) plans to create a paradigm shift in American values began about 30 years ago, laying the groundwork with their message throughout the 1970's, and coming into power beginning with the Reagan era.
At that time, there was a shift in the economic structure away from recognizing the value of the American working people in the production of goods and services. This change was brought about throughout the implementation in the 1980's of supply side economics-- a system which basically steals from the poor and middle class and gives to the wealthy, a sort of income redistribution in reverse that continues through this day. An example of this rip-off is the federal tax structure, under which investment income is assessed at a lower rate than wages. Then there is the federal minimum wage, for which there was no increase from 1997 to 2007. Yet CEO compensation as a ratio to the minimum wage increased from 78 in 1978 to 207 by 1989 (most of the increase took place during the 1980's, the Reagan Era). By 2005, about midway through the Dubya Administration, the multiple had increased to 821. See CEO Pay-to minimum-wage ratio soars. Talk all you want about the free market, this disparity is nothing short of obscene..
As previously noted, it was also about this same time that the trend of "new age" irrationalism and religious fundamentalism began manifesting itself in the U.S, even into the reaches of the government executive branch. For example, President Reagan (along with his wife Nancy), was a believer in astrology and said that he followed his horoscope daily. Further, he had the street number of his California residential address changed from 666 because he believed that set of numerals to be the (biblical) "mark of the beast". Reagan's Secretary of the Interior James Watt said that there was no need to protect the environment because the end of the world was at hand and Jesus was coming soon.
This was also the era of the of the Moral Majority which supported Reagan in his first election, and the Christian Coalition which was founded in 1989. During the 1980's the Fundamentalist Christians moved in on the Republican right and consolidate their power with a vengeance during the 1990's. See The Rise of the Religious Right in The Republican Party.
In a combination of shortsightedness and a kind of fanaticism that caused Reagan to see the Soviet Union as the "evil empire", the Republican Administration sent aid and weapons to mujahedeen guerrillas in Afghanistan--whom Reagan praised as "freedom fighters"--to battle the Russians when they invaded that country. The mujahideen gave rise to the the Taliban who eventually turned against America. In turn, their hatred towards the U.S culminated in 9-11.
Ironically, the waste of resources in an unwinnable war in Afghanistan, not U.S.foreign policy, was likely the cause of the collapse of communism in the USSR. America did not need to get involved in that war. The USSR probably did itself in, as the Soviet invasion turned in to a Vietnam type quagmire.
Likewise, Reagan's and President Bush Sr.'s support of Saddam Hussein in the war between Iraq and Iran has come back to haunt us with a vengeance. The events in Afghanistan and the Middle East are the the consequences of America's adopting the flawed policy "The enemy of my enemy is my friend". Directly or indirectly, it was this kind of thinking that made America responsible for the rise of Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the attack on America. See How the CIA created Osama bin Laden. American military forces have been tied up in Afghanistan since then and according to the Wikipedia article Coalition Casualties in Afghanistan, as of February 13, 2008, the casualty count for American troops stands at 414. Perhaps things might have turned out differently if more troops were available there and not tied down in Iraq. But considering the Soviet experience, the outcome may not have been that different after all.
Religious fundamentalism right here at home which has advanced in the U.S. in direct proportion to the decline of rationalism, has been so heartily sponsored by the Bush administration. For this reason, the Republicans scare me. The President and his party have formulated and /or supported such policies as so called faith-based initiatives and the war on science, especially the campaign to eliminate from public schools the teaching of the Theory of Evolution or require so called equal time for teaching the doctrine of religion based creationism as an alternate explanation to the existence of humans. A prime example of Bush's war on rationality is his administration's policy of interference in FDA's scientific research. See Oversight and Government Reform. Yet another example is Bush's blocking America's participation in the Kyoto accords, despite strong evidence of global warming. For a complete list of international treaties that Bush has violated or opposed, see Bush's Crimes.
But the end of Bush's term in office in November will not be the end of right-wing fundamentalism in the Republican Party. Sen. John McCain, the Republican nominee who has been considered a "moderate" declared that only a Christian is fit to be the President of the United States. I find this remark offenseive to non-Christian Americans and disrespectful to the Consitutional guarantee of separation of Church and State. But what is alarming is that there has not been a storm of outrage against this comments. Imagine what would have happened if McCain had said that only a male or a white person should be President.
It used to be said that there's not a dime's worth of difference between the Democrats and the Republicans, and that they are basically two sides of the same coin. At one time I would have agreed. Yet over the past 15 years or so, the GOP politics of hate and venom have gone beyond the pale of acceptable partisan politics. But you can't have a bully without a victim, and the Democrats have jumped in to fill that role by allowing their party be steamrolled and led by the nose by the Republican jack booted thugs. Bush shamelessly exploited 9-11 by pushing for the Patriot Act and intimidating the Democrats into voting for the Iraq War by impugning the patriotism of dissenters.
A contemptible (but typical) breach of ethics conducted by the Republicans was during the 2004 presidential election campaign. Here we had the hawkish party who pushed for the Iraq War not only supporting Bush--the Vietnam War draft dodger who hid out from combat by cutting in line to enlist in the National Guard (from which he was frequently absent)--but the GOP also managed to trash the Vietnam War honorable service record of Bush's Democratic opponent, John Kerry. Yet Kerry still rose above the Swift Boat Veterans Campaign calumny and for the first part of the race managed to build a lead over Bush. But true to form for the Democrats, Kerry blew it .
Isn't it just incredible how they Dems manage to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory? It turns out there was even a cloud over the balloting in Ohio in the 2004 election, which if Kerry had challenged may have redirected enough votes in his favor for him to win the election See "Kerry Suspects 2004 election Was Stolen". It is due to his failure to aggressively go toe to toe with the Republicans that I lost respect for Kerry.
But another factor contributing to Bush's win over Kerry in 2004, was the release the by the Al-Jazeera Network of a speech by Bin Laden shortly before the U.S. elections condemning Bush. However, this broadcast instead and instead provoked or scared Americans into voting for Bush. So don't worry about the Bush Administration pulling a surprise capture of Bin Laden this year to win points for the election. He's too valuable to them where he is--wherever that may be.
Then there is the state of economy. At one time it was the Democrats who were labeled as the "tax and spend" party. Yet under President Clinton, America ran a budget surplus, which in the year 2000 was $230 billion. Under President Bush and the Republicans "borrow and spend" policies, that surplus has vanished and has been replaced by a deficit which in 2007 amounted to $163 billion in 2007 and is expected to reach $400 billion by the end of 2008. The budget for this year includes a reduction of Medicare spending and increase in military spending. See President’s Spending Plan Would Rival 2004 Deficit. Programs that Bush wants to eliminate include a federal literacy program (This from the "No child left behind" President.)
On top of everything else is the collapse of the housing market, no longer just confined to the sub- prime set. At this writing, for the first time in U.S. history, American homeowners as a whole, owe more on their homes then their properties are worth. The unrealistic increase in home prices over the past couple years was a speculative bubble just waiting to burst, and there's no excuse for the Administration not to have taken preventive measures. I'm not an economics expert. Frankly, I'm not even a college graduate, but I worked long enough in the credit business and had enough personal experiences to realize years ago where this runaway train was heading. American Theocracy which by the way was copyrighted in 2006 also predicted this disaster. So for Bush and company to pretend that there was no warning for this disaster is utter bullshit. Another interesting read that discusses the warning signs which Dubya ignored is American Politik .
Republicans claim to champion so called traditional family values but had no problem with Bush's history of abuse of alcohol and other drugs such as cocaine, plus a drunk driving conviction while already an adult. In fact Bush has the distinction of being the only U.S. President with a criminal record. Yet the Republicans pilloried President Clinton for using of marijuana while a college student. Interestingly, note the way the children of these two men turned out. Compare the behavior of the daughters of George W. and Bill Clinton and tell me who among them these three offspring is truly the class act in terms of intellect and decorum. I guess the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, nor the berries from the Bush.
Along the line of line of "family values" is the the so called "right to life" movement championed by the Republican right. Senator Bill Frist and Congressman Tom DeLay politicized the Terri Schiavo case in trying to invoke federal power and legislation to prevent removal of the feeding tube of this woman who was in a persistent vegetative state. This action was taken despite her purported wishes that she not be allowed to kept in this state, according to her husband.. Even Bush intervened in the matter. It turns out, however, that when DeLay's own father was in a similar comatose position in 1988, no heroic measures were taken to extend his life, in accordance with the wishes of the family. Bush's position in the Schiavo case also contrasted his actions as Governor of Texas when in 1999, he signed a bill permitting doctors to remove life support from patients whose conditions were hopeless.
It's nothing less than sadistic how the conservatives support the "right to life" but not the relief of suffering while being kept alive. Witness for example "states rights" Republicans invoking federal power against states that have decriminalized the use of medical marijuana for sufferers of the side effects of chemotherapy and for victims of glaucoma.
And speaking of drugs, for all the right-wingers' ranting against narcotics, America's alliance with Colombia is another tribute to Republican hypocrisy. The President of that nation, Avaro Uribe, along with his family, is apparently tied to drug trafficking and smuggling, and may well have connections with the Medlin Cartel. See Bush, Colombia, and Narco Poliitics. Yet this hasn't stopped Bush and Uribe from forming a mutual admiration society, and from the U.S extending aid to the Colombian military. Further, Bush has turned a blind(?) eye towards Colombia's right-wing death squads which operate with Uribe's blessings. These organizations are of course also deeply involved in the narcotics trade.
The savaging to which American ideals have been subjected over the past three decades is tragic but not hopeless. Earlier I mentioned the article "Learning from the Cultural Conservatives" which documents the rise of the Republican party and the extremist conservative takeover of the U.S. This essay goes on to discuss how we progressives can take back our country. But frankly, I question whether the left has the will and the grit to engage in the social-political-economic street fighting against the right wing bullies that, as the author states, is necessary to rescue this country from the clutches of intellectual tyranny and obscurantism that the right-wing has imposed on this nation. It's going to take a huge effort, but keeping in mind the goal of a new Enlightenment, it will be well worth the battle.