Thursday, January 11, 2007

The Gas Pump President

The mountain grows darker,
taking the scarlet
from the autumn leaves.


Cooking, eating, sleeping, every deed of everyday life is nothing else than the Great Matter. Realize this! So we extend tender care with a worshipping heart even to such beings as beasts and birds---but not only to beasts, not only to birds, but to insects too, ok? Even to grass, to one blade of grass, even to dust, to one speck of dust. Sometimes I bow to the dust...

---Soen Nakagawa

The fundamental delusion of reality is to suppose that I am HERE and you are out there.


Wow, how about those gas prices yesterday!
Maybe Bush should give a TV speech every night.

Hopefully you're showing up at a rally somewhere this evening
to question the use of American troops, at taxpayer expense,
to secure the private reserves, profits and markets of all these oilmen.
Check the balance sheets of corporations "cleaning up" (in) Iraq:
their continuing bid free, tax-exempt megaprofits
tell the real story of what Victory means to this Executive.
The Enron philosophy lives on!

Coordinating in the surge of our escalation, the Iraq Parliament
is poised obediently to turn over the country's oilfields
to Exxon/Mobil, Shell, BP, and Chevron at 75% initial profit
(so the poor dears can "recover their investment").
They'll need those troops and a billion and a half
of our dollars for "bolstering". More on this?
On the right
and on the left .


jazzolog said...

The news website France24 is featuring a photo this morning showing busloads of Surge Soldiers making their way to Baghdad. Does Surge sound like an energy drink? Their arrival is sure to make an escalating splash with our outsourced companies over there as CEOs privately rebuild Iraq and secure the oilfields...with the help of proposed legislation in its Parliament to put those resources into the hands of American investors. Yesterday Paul Krugman titled his column The Texas Strategy and reminded readers about the bill handed to taxpayers as the result of the savings and loan scandal of the 1980s, comparing it to what we face with Iraq. When will we ever learn?

For those of us raised in the 1940s-50s era of oldtime wars, we may tend to think of a soldier as a guy with a rifle slung over his back, slogging along war-torn terrain, or dug in a foxhole somewhere praying for that air attack. An article last April in Rolling Stone by freelancer Jeff Tietz gave us a day-by-day account of recruit training these days and informed me just how little I know about the capabilities of today's infantry person. I don't find the piece, entitled The Killing Factory, archived anywhere online, but I recommend looking to a library for the April 20th issue. Here's a chilling paragraph from page 58 on just what a single soldier can do this morning~~~

"Before you get to the (firing) range, you will also have spent a lot of time studying the ninety-six-page weapons section of your Initial Entry Training Soldier's Handbook. Advances in weapons technology always make killing easier on the psyche, and as an infantryman you will have access to eleven different weapons systems. The weapons are very clever and destructive almost beyond comprehension. The warhead of the AT-4, a shoulder-fired anti-tank rocket, can pierce a wall of steel more than a foot thick. The AT-4 can do this from A MILE AWAY. With the lightweight grenade launcher you put on your M-16, you can shoot seven grenades, each explosive enough to destroy a car from two blocks away, in a single minute. The very portable .50-caliber machine gun does not act like a machine gun at all. Its maximum range is 22,220 feet---more than FOUR MILES. You can use it on light-armored vehicles and AIRPLANES. A single, inexperienced modern infantry soldier, with full combat support, has as much death at his fingertips as a 300-man company did in World War II."

jazzolog said...

Thanks heavens for people like Bryan Zepp, who not only stayed up and watched it (and on the West Coast too!) but stayed up even later and wrote about it. What a guy! As for me, the snowy night made for wondrous slumber. Ahhh, sweet drops of rest.

It probably didn’t cheer anyone in the West Wing up when the CBS poll
came out three days before the State of the Union address showing that
his approval ratings had dropped to 28% – a number not seen in such
polls since the last week of the Nixon presidency.

A relatively popular president can rally voters through the SOTU and get
a bump in the polls. Clinton used it to devastating effect in 1998 in
the days following the Lewinsky scandal, when Republicans were wondering
if he should even give the speech at all, since his presidency was
clearly over. In that speech, the popular Clinton rallied supporters and
addressed critics through sheer intelligence and charisma. That SOTU
probably saved his Presidency. Despite the best efforts of the GOP
hatchetmen and the slime masquerading as journalists at Faux, his
popularity never dropped below 62%.

But the cruel irony of being an unpopular president lies in the fact
that people usually don’t bother watching a windy and largely
content-free speech by a president they don’t like. Hell, I just watched
it in hopes of gleaning enough to write a funny column. The next
thousand words will reveal whether it worked. In the meantime, I realize
that I may have been the only person in my county who watched the
speech. No, I don’t want your pity. Just send money.

An unpopular president can’t rally the troops because the troops aren’t
there to be rallied.

Normally, a president gets support when there is a sense of national
crisis. When that breaks down, of course, is when the public comes to
believe that the national crisis is, in fact, the president himself.
Nixon discovered this in 1974, as did Hoover in 1932.

So it didn’t matter how much he humped Pelosi’s leg in hopes of
political mileage stemming from some condescending “you’ve come a long
way, baby” kinds of remarks. It didn’t matter how many subway heroes he
applauded, or how many basketball stars he called “son of the Congo.”
His performance had all the hope and relevance of a trout flopping
around in the bottom of a boat.

There were a lot of things he didn’t talk about. For example, he didn’t
talk about the 100 hours of legislation that Pelosi successfully ran
through the House in just 87 hours. The closest he came was when he
discussed earmarks and, sounding like he had just thought of it,
suggested the House expose all earmarks to the light of day. The annual
number of earmarks had exploded three-fold in the previous six years,
but it took a Democratic takeover of Congress and legislation exposing
earmarks to the light of day to make Putsch decide that something needed
to be done about them.

The first comic highlight came when it came to health coverage, one of
those social necessities that wealthy Republicans like Putsch like to
sniff and dismiss as “entitlements.” Putsch wants to make the first
$7,500 of income tax exempt if the worker has health insurance. Since
much of that money is ALREADY exempt, this means that the worker is
promised he’ll get $200 of his own money back if he shells out $4,500 a
year to an insurance company which will then use the money to figure out
ways of screwing said worker out of his coverage. Putsch forgot to
mention the millions of people who can’t get health insurance because
they just don’t look very profitable to the insurance company.

Somehow I don’t think garment workers are going to be throwing
spontaneous “We love the President” parties at work tomorrow.

Just to add to the general sense of lunacy, Putsch pretended that the
typical worker who needed health insurance made $60, 000 a year, and so
would save quite a bit. Like, about $4,500 a year.

Somehow, I suspect that most of the low-end workers who don’t have
health insurance make less than $60,000 a year. In fact, I bet all of
them do. Quite a bit less, in most cases.

From there he sequed into immigration worker reform, which was a bit
unfortunate, since his party is crammed with xenophobes who routinely
scream that the reason health care in America is such a disaster is
because illegal aliens suck it all down. Republicans sat on their hands
for that, while the Democrats offered tepid applause. Putsch then took a
few stabs at alternative fuels, praising ethanol and suggesting that
America go green and energy-efficient while Cheney sat behind him and
smiled around the chamber with a “ain’t-NEVER-gonna-happen!” smirk on
his face.

From there, Putsch got to Iraq. There isn’t any way of polishing that
particular turd, and Putsch inadvertently revealed an inner truth in the
situation when he said, “Our success in this war is often measured by
the things that did not happen.” That’s one way of saying you got your
ass kicked, George. Admitting there is a problem is the first step.

A few moments later he said, “Our enemies are quite explicit about their
intentions. They want to overthrow moderate governments, and establish
safe havens from which to plan and carry out new attacks on our
country.” I’m sure quite a few people were wondering if he was talking
about al Qaida, or Project for a New American Century.

This lead to his second inadvertent truth of the night: “The result was
a tragic escalation of sectarian rage and reprisal that continues to
this day. This is not the fight we entered in Iraq, but it is the fight
we're in. Every one of us wishes this war were over and won.”

Oh, yeah, baby. Glad you figured it out before anyone got hurt.

He then led a stentorian call to “victory!!”, which got him a few
half-hearted claps from Joe Lieberman and the surviving Republicans
sitting to Putsch’s left. SOTUs aren’t noted for content or sincerity,
but it’s entirely possible that not one person in that building believed
that Putsch would lead America to any sort of victory in Iraq, including
Putsch himself. “Defining hour,” incidentally, is the latest
Putsch-speak for “Stay the course.”

He then did something very strange. He proposed privatizing a national
guard. “A second task we can take on together is to design and establish
a volunteer Civilian Reserve Corps. Such a corps would function much
like our military reserve. It would ease the burden on the Armed Forces
by allowing us to hire civilians with critical skills to serve on
missions abroad when America needs them. It would give people across
America who do not wear the uniform a chance to serve in the defining
struggle of our time.”

Yeah, privatizing the help has helped military morale so much. Generals
really appreciate it when the guy who cleans their office at night makes
more than they do. Privatizing the reserves with the same sort of people
who work for KBR or Halliburton should really improve the mood among the

That was pretty much it for the speech, notable only for the lack of
enthusiasm shown by House members and the fact that few people were
watching. “See you next year,” Putsch gamely concluded, but, like his
call to victory moments earlier, it was possible that not a single
person in that room believed that.

The Democrats picked Jim Webb of Virginia to give the Democratic
response. Short and sweet, and rather than comment upon it, I’ll just
finish this essay by including it here:

I'm Sen. Jim Webb, from Virginia, where this year we will celebrate the
400th anniversary of the settlement of Jamestown _ an event that marked
the first step in the long journey that has made us the greatest and
most prosperous nation on earth.

It would not be possible in this short amount of time to actually rebut
the president's message, nor would it be useful. Let me simply say that
we in the Democratic Party hope that this administration is serious
about improving education and health care for all Americans, and
addressing such domestic priorities as restoring the vitality of New

Further, this is the seventh time the president has mentioned energy
independence in his State of the Union message, but for the first time
this exchange is taking place in a Congress led by the Democratic Party.
We are looking for affirmative solutions that will strengthen our nation
by freeing us from our dependence on foreign oil, and spurring a wave of
entrepreneurial growth in the form of alternate energy programs. We look
forward to working with the president and his party to bring about these

There are two areas where our respective parties have largely stood in
contradiction, and I want to take a few minutes to address them tonight.
The first relates to how we see the health of our economy _ how we
measure it, and how we ensure that its benefits are properly shared
among all Americans. The second regards our foreign policy _ how we
might bring the war in Iraq to a proper conclusion that will also allow us
to continue to fight the war against international terrorism, and to address
other strategic concerns that our country faces around the world.

When one looks at the health of our economy, it's almost as if we are
living in two different countries. Some say that things have never been
better. The stock market is at an all-time high, and so are corporate
profits. But these benefits are not being fairly shared. When I
graduated from college, the average corporate CEO made 20 times what the
average worker did; today, it's nearly 400 times. In other words, it takes the average
worker more than a year to make the money that his or her boss makes in one day.

Wages and salaries for our workers are at all-time lows as a percentage
of national wealth, even though the productivity of American workers is
the highest in the world. Medical costs have skyrocketed. College
tuition rates are off the charts. Our manufacturing base is being
dismantled and sent overseas. Good American jobs are being sent along
with them.

In short, the middle class of this country, our historic backbone and
our best hope for a strong society in the future, is losing its place at
the table. Our workers know this, through painful experience. Our
white-collar professionals are beginning to understand it, as their jobs
start disappearing also. And they expect, rightly, that in this age of
globalization, their government has a duty to insist that their concerns
be dealt with fairly in the international marketplace.

"Now, by the way, any time you hear the United States government talking
about wiretap, it requires -- a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has
changed, by the way. When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're
talking about getting a court order before we do so"
-George W. Bush, April 20, 2004

Not dead, in jail, or a slave? Thank a liberal!
Pay your taxes so the rich don't have to.