In an op-ed in the New York Times a couple of days ago, Kurt Eichenwald claims to have seen excerpts from presidential daily briefs from throughout 2001, and says that the lone declassified one (“Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.”) is nothing compared to those in the months beforehand. He says that the White House actively discredited strong, specific CIA warnings that Al Qaeda was planning a big attack in the U.S. for some time in the summer. On July 9, hen it became clear that Bush was going to completely ignore their warnings, the CIA counterterrorism group even talked about all leaving en masse so that they wouldn’t have to take the fall for the attack. Note that this is an op-ed—presumably it hasn’t been subjected to the Times’ rigorous fact-checking. →
This should be a wake-up call to the grown-ups in the Republican Party. Fetishizing ignorance and demonizing education has led to two-thirds of the party’s members being morons. I can understand why some people are confused about global climate change and evolution—there’s been a well organized attempt to spread misinformation on these scientifici topics. But being wrong on these topics? It’s pure insanity, on the level of faking the moon landing or Elvis being alive. →
- Washington Post: Poll Finds Public Wary on Tax Cut
The A1 headline in the Washington Post on the morning of September 11, 2001 was for this prescient story: "A majority of Americans say they are prepared to roll back President Bush's $1.35 trillion tax cut to help deal with the shrinking federal budget surplus and say Bush more than congressional Democrats bears responsibility for a problem that has suddenly put him on the defensive."
- Commonwealth of VA vs. Kathleen Sebelius
I recommend a quick reading of the Fourth Circuit Court's smackdown of Ken Cuccinelli. The decision starts on page 17, and it reads like a Constitutional Law 101 lesson, one that Cuccinelli needs badly. "The sole provision challenged here—the individual mandate—imposes no obligations on the sole plaintiff, Virginia." End of story.
- Wall Street Journal: Many Afghans Shrug at ‘This Event Foreigners Call 9/11′
In two Afghani provinces, 92% of 15–30-year-old men surveyed had never heard of September 11th. Keep in mind that few people have access to newspapers or television (TV was banned by the Taliban), that many Afghanis were young children when it happened, and that many of them probably find it preposterous that a building could be so tall that thousands of people could die in one.
- CBS News: Like Every Administration, White House Defends Obama "Vacation"
President Obama has taken 38 days of vacation so far in his presidency. At this point in Bush's presidency, he'd taken 102 days of vacation.
- Rick Perry’s Texas A&M Transcript
Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry's academic record is on par with President Bush's—which is to say, very poor—but perhaps most telling is the "D" that he earned in Principles of Economics. That's about right.
- Los Angeles Times: Missing Iraq money may have been stolen, auditors say
How could we have known that shipping 21 C-130s to Iraq full of $12,000,000,000 in cash to be distributed without any sort of bookkeeping or audit trail would end badly? I mean, who could have forecast such a thing?
- Wall Street Journal: Perry Points to ‘Idiotic’ U.S. Rule That Doesn’t Exist
In Rick Perry's imaginary United States, things are going very badly indeed. No doubt he has some imaginary solutions to propose.
- New York Times: Policy Changes Under Two Presidents
This chart of new costs versus savings under Presidents Bush and Obama is really striking. The total cost of Obama's new policies comes to $1.44T. Bush's? $5.07T. Just his tax cuts alone cost more than Obama's policies, at $1.8T. Once you figure in two wars, TARP, and the stimulus, we're talking about a great deal of money indeed.
- Wikipedia: States Rights Gist
CSA Brigadier General States Rights Gist, born in 1831, had a father who felt very strongly about politics. His family, from South Carolina, called him "States." He died at the Battle of Franklin, in 1864.
- Library of Congress: Soldier’s Joy
This tune has been played on nearly every instrument known to man since at least the late 1700s, which is as far back as historians have traced it. The version with lyrics dates only to 1957, when Jimmy Driftwood wrote them. Nearly every version that I've heard has been instrumental. Courtesy of the LoC, you can even hear a 1938 recording of Albert Gore and his band performing it at the National Folk Festival. If you're not familiar with Gore, you'll at least know of his son, Vice President Al Gore.
- WordPress Publisher Blog: A complete publishing system on WordPress
The Bangor Daily News managed to turn WordPress and Google Docs into an entire newspaper publishing system, by using a bunch of plugins to create an editorial workflow. Having written a lot of code to perform this very task, I'm really impressed by this. Better still, it all integrates with InDesign, and all of the plugins are open sourced. Bravo!
- Joel Stein: How Jewish is Hollywood?
- Washington Post: Congressional Budget Office warns of debt explosion
The CBO reports that threre's a simple solution to our budget problem: let the Bush tax cuts expire.
- New Scientist: Lab yeast make evolutionary leap to multicellularity
In just 60 days, yeast cells became multicellular, dividing labor between cells. Apparently this isn't nearly as complicated or unlikely as some evolutionary theorists believed.
- Texas Tribune: Counting Confusion Keeps Texas Cowboy Confined
I've become a real fan of the Texas Tribune, the new nonprofit news outfit in Austin, and this story is a good example of why. It's a pleasure to read, with some nice turns of phrase, and some great quotes from the subject of the article. I came across this in the New York Times, which has started to syndicate the Tribune's stories.
- New York Times: A Tipping Point for Gay Marriage?
With the government unable to muster a legally defensible argument against gay marriage, it's amazing that the House of Representatives went ahead and hired their own private law firm to carry on the right. But it's more amazing still that the law firm dropped the case, finding the Republican majority's position impractical to defend. This looks like the beginning of the end of anti-gay discrimination. My children will almost certainly not know a world in which marriage is only for opposite-sex couples.
- Salon.com: "USA! USA!" is the wrong response
I'm glad to see that others share my discomfort with some of the reaction to the death of Osama bin Laden. "In the years since 9/11, we have begun vaguely mimicking those we say we despise, sometimes celebrating bloodshed against those we see as Bad Guys just as vigorously as our enemies celebrate bloodshed against innocent Americans they (wrongly) deem as Bad Guys."
- The Independent: Bush rejects Taliban offer to surrender bin Laden
Remember when the Taliban offered to hand over Osama bin Laden to the U.S., the President Bush rejected the offer? That was in October 2001, a week after we started bombing. Bush's response? "When I said no negotiations I meant no negotiations."
- The Washington Post: How the U.S., on the road to surplus, detoured to massive debt
In case you've forgotten how we went from record surpluses to record deficits in a decade (hint: you have), the Post recounts the story of how President Bush blew President Clinton's carefully crafted budget by going on the largest-ever tax-cutting spree, recklessly distributing our nation's wealth to the nation's wealthiest.
- Wall Street Journal: Jobless claims
The WSJ put a sparkline in a tweet. *swoon*
You’ll remember the name Abu Zubaida. That’s the guy President Bush bragged about capturing back in 2002, describing him as “al-Qaeda’s chief of operations.” Zubaida denied it, saying that he had nothing to do with al-Qaeda. So we held him at a CIA black operations site and tortured him in order to get him to give up the location of Osama bin Laden. We waterboarded him 83 times and brought him to the edge of death on four occasions. And now it turns out—oops!—that he’s not “al-Qaeda’s chief of operations.” He’s just some dude, a Pakastani guy with nothing to do with al-Qaeda, just a fixer for radical Muslim tourists. Where is he now? Guantanamo. The man has broken no laws, committed no act of war, and there has never been any evidence against him…and yet we’ve held him for seven years, with no apparent plan to release him.
What ever happened to that “shining city on a hill”?
In yesterday’s New York Times, Scott Shane and Mark Mazzetti reveal how top White House and congressional officials all came to agree that torture was legal in 2002:
This extraordinary consensus was possible, an examination by The New York Times shows, largely because no one involved — not the top two C.I.A. officials who were pushing the program, not the senior aides to President George W. Bush, not the leaders of the Senate and House Intelligence Committees — investigated the gruesome origins of the techniques they were approving with little debate.
According to several former top officials involved in the discussions seven years ago, they did not know that the military training program, called SERE, for Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape, had been created decades earlier to give American pilots and soldiers a sample of the torture methods used by Communists in the Korean War, methods that had wrung false confessions from Americans.
Even George J. Tenet, the C.I.A. director who insisted that the agency had thoroughly researched its proposal and pressed it on other officials, did not examine the history of the most shocking method, the near-drowning technique known as waterboarding.
This is one of those articles where I just can’t figure out when to stop the excerpt, because it’s just so compelling. My favorite bit is this: “The process was ‘a perfect storm of ignorance and enthusiasm,’ a former C.I.A. official said.” That’s a pretty good summation of the Bush administration.
Yesterday whitehouse.gov prohibited search engines from indexing 2,400 pages on their site. Today 0 pages are prohibited.
That really says it all about this transition, doesn’t it?
This, the final day of the Bush presidency, seems like the day to revisit The Onion’s often-revisited January 17, 2001 article about Bush, “Bush: ‘Our Long National Nightmare Of Peace And Prosperity Is Finally Over’”:
“My fellow Americans,” Bush said, “at long last, we have reached the end of the dark period in American history that will come to be known as the Clinton Era, eight long years characterized by unprecedented economic expansion, a sharp decrease in crime, and sustained peace overseas. The time has come to put all of that behind us.”
Bush swore to do “everything in [his] power” to undo the damage wrought by Clinton’s two terms in office, including selling off the national parks to developers, going into massive debt to develop expensive and impractical weapons technologies, and passing sweeping budget cuts that drive the mentally ill out of hospitals and onto the street.
Bush concluded his speech on a note of healing and redemption.
“We as a people must stand united, banding together to tear this nation in two,” Bush said. “Much work lies ahead of us: The gap between the rich and the poor may be wide, be there’s much more widening left to do. We must squander our nation’s hard-won budget surplus on tax breaks for the wealthiest 15 percent. And, on the foreign front, we must find an enemy and defeat it.”
A pretty huge chunk of the country saw the last eight years coming. I can have a little sympathy for people who voted for Bush in 2000. But in 2004? Isn’t it time y’all apologized?
The Bush administration has admitted that they can’t prosecute “the 20th hijacker” because they tortured him. Why can’t they torture him? Because that’s outside of their own claimed standards. It’s amazing—Bush set up his own special courts, his own prosecutors, his own prisons, his own legal system just for convicting supposed terrorists—the whole damned system is rigged—and he still can’t manage to bag this claimed baddie. It’s just pathetic.
John Bolton and John Yoo aren’t so sure about this unitary executive thing, now that Barack Obama is going to be president. Let’s see who gets themselves twisted up more: Democrats who come to embrace the Bush/Yoo philosophy of President as King, or Republicans who suddenly don’t think it’s such a hot idea. My bet is on the latter. I think it’s a stupid an idea as ever, but I can’t help but relish the idea of sticking by it for six months or so; what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.
Virginia Democrat Josh Israel has been with the Center for Public Integrity for just a few months now, and he’s already gone and done something pretty cool: cataloged the 128 ways in which the executive branch has failed in the past eight years.
We’ve all got family members that are not doing so well. Democrats would help them out, but Republicans would help us out.
I used to be a Republican. I wanted Bush in there. The previous years I’ve been Republican because of what we make, but this year’s a little bit different. I think this year more guys are not even thinking about the income part of it. They’re just really thinking about the economy and the country. A lot of people want change.”
We’re going to hear a lot of that over the next few weeks. Followed up by complaints that Democrats rigged the election. Is it too early to start coming up with nasty taunts along the lines of “Sore Loserman?”
President Bush has hit a 70% disapproval rating, making him the most unpopular president in the history of polling. 53% of those polled believe that Sen. John McCain would move the nation in the same direction that Bush has. The folks who I know who still support Bush seem to do so impishly, figuring that if the whole world dislikes him so much, he must be doing something right.
Is it possible that one of the most radically-right governments in ages is advocating one of the biggest step towards socialism that this country has taken in generations? President Bush has nationalized the nation’s largest mortgage provider and insurance company. (For contrast, imagine President Obama demanding that Congress approve the government take over and nationalize the country’s largest health insurance company.) Now Bush wants $700B—more than we’ve spent on Bush’s war in Iraq—to pay the debts of a bunch of private businesses, presumably gaining an ownership stake in them in the process. Anybody forecasting this in 2000 would have been laughed off of the campaign trail.
Is the problem that our markets are too free? Or is it that they’re not free enough?
Reader FW writes:
I was curious about the stock market’s performance during the Clinton era vs the Bush era so I looked up historical Dow Jones Industrial Average data. I thought you might be interested in the results.
11/02/92 – Last market close before 1992 election 3262.21
11/06/00 – Last market close before 2000 election 10977.21
09/17/08 – market closed @ 10609.66
From just before the 1992 election to just before the 2000 election, the stock market rose by 336%. From just before the 2000 election to the present (9/17/08), the market has FALLEN 3.3%. But gotta look on the bright side – oil company and Halliburton profits are way up!
This is a message that Democrats really need to do a better job of getting out. Much like Obama needs to do a better job of getting out the message that he’ll cut taxes more than McCain will for everybody but the superrich. We do better for the country economically, though I think that we’re at our best in that regard with Republicans running a chamber of the legislature, preferably the Senate.
There’s bad news on the economic front: Bush’s budget deficit will hit the half-trillion dollar mark next year, which is precisely the opposite of what President Bush has been promising since he first sought the office.
Let’s take a look back at each year’s budget news since 2000, the year before President Bush took office.
The balanced federal budget is a remarkable feat. Remember the projections in the 1980s of $300 billion budget deficits as far as the eye could see? [...] [T]he Congressional Budget Office is projecting a cumulative $3.6 trillion surplus over the next decade. The U.S. Treasury estimates it could pay off the national debt by 2013, and it already has started buying back some 30-year government bonds.
[N]o matter who wins the race for the Presidency, the news from the campaign trail on the economic front is relatively heartening.
Both Al Gore and George W. Bush seem committed to the fiscal blueprint that has worked so well over the past decade or so. Both are embracing the virtues of a balanced federal budget, debt reduction, deregulation, freer trade, and immigrants. Bush isn’t a card-carrying supply-sider, despite his $1.3 trillion tax cut proposal.
The White House revised this year’s federal budget deficit estimate upward to $165 billion Friday from an earlier $106 billion projection.
But numbers released Friday by the White House’s Office of Management and Budget project the deficit will begin to shrink next year — an outlook at odds with congressional budget experts, who project the deficit to grow again in fiscal 2003, which begins October 1.
With midterm elections on the horizon, the new numbers reignited the debate over why the government is back in the red after surpluses at the end of the Clinton administration.
Even if the economy rebounds strongly over the next few years, the federal budget deficit could climb for the rest of the decade if Congress adopts proposals strongly supported by President Bush, the Congressional Budget Office said today.
Offering a sharp contrast to recent projections by the White House, which had said the budget deficit would hit $475 billion next year and decline significantly after that, the Congressional report warns that annual deficits could rise rather than fall.
The nonpartisan office said the deficit would be $480 billion next year but could reach a cumulative total of $5.8 trillion by 2013.
Administration officials quickly dismissed the Congressional projections as too speculative to take seriously, noting that long-term budget projections have been notoriously inaccurate.
Last month, the White House Office of Management and Budget projected that the deficit would peak at $475 billion next year and decline to just $62 billion in 2008.
The Congressional Budget Office predicted today that the federal government would face a $477 billion budget deficit this fiscal year and a further cumulative deficit of $1.9 trillion over the next decade.
Treasury Secretary John Snow, in a speech delivered via satellite to a conference in London, repeated the administration’s commitment to cut the deficit in half over the next five years.
“Make no mistake: President Bush is serious about the deficit,” Mr. Snow said, The A.P. reported.
The White House announced on Tuesday that the federal budget deficit was expected to rise this year to $427 billion, a figure that includes a new request from President Bush to help pay for the war in Iraq.
The White House’s announcement makes it the fourth straight year in which the budget deficit was expected to grow; as recently as last July the administration had predicted that the deficit, which was $412 billion last year, would fall this year to $331 billion.
In a briefing for reporters on Tuesday, senior administration officials insisted they were still on track to fulfill Mr. Bush’s campaign promise of reducing the federal budget deficit by half by 2009.
President Bush touted a $248 billion budget deficit Wednesday as good news. Compared to forecasts, it was just that.
A recent Congressional Budget Office report shows that over the next decade, the government likely will rack up $3.5 trillion in red ink. That assumes Bush’s tax cuts are extended beyond their 2010 expiration, middle-income taxpayers are protected from the alternative minimum tax, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are phased down.
The nation’s budget deficit will drop to $205 billion in the fiscal year that ends in September, even as a worsening deficit picture for future years makes it more difficult for President Bush to meet his pledge of a surplus by 2012.
The deficits figures released by the White House on Wednesday show red ink less than half of what it was at its peak in 2004. It’s also a gain over the $244 billion that Bush predicted in February, but not as great an improvement as anticipated by other forecasters.
But the new figures show an increase in the deficit next year to $258 billion. Bush promises a $33 billion surplus in 2012.
And, finally, today:
The government’s budget deficit will surge past a half-trillion dollars next year, according to gloomy new estimates, a record flood of red ink that promises to force the winner of the presidential race to dramatically alter his economic agenda.
The deficit will hit $482 billion in the 2009 budget year that will be inherited by Democrat Barack Obama or Republican John McCain, the White House estimated Monday. That figure is sure to rise after adding the tens of billions of dollars in additional Iraq war funding it doesn’t include, and the total could be higher yet if the economy fails to recover as the administration predicts.
The result: the biggest deficit ever in terms of dollars, though several were higher in the 1980s and early 1990s as a percentage of the overall economy.
The administration actually underestimates the deficit since it leaves out about $80 billion in war costs. In a break from tradition — and in violation of new mandates from Congress — the White House did not include its full estimate of war costs.
The most hilarious moment in this entire sad saga came in 2005, when House Majority Leader Tom DeLay declared that “there is simply no fat left to cut in the federal budget.” It was always clear that Bush had no intention whatsoever of balancing the budget: he wanted big spending and low taxes. Don’t we all?
Remember last year’s SCOTUS ruling that the EPA had to figure out if CO2 was a danger to human health? Well, the EPA complied with that, as they were obliged to, and in December they issued a report to the White House ruling that, yes, greenhouse gases are pollutants, and as such they’ve got to be regulated. But the White House never received that report and, as a result, they say that they don’t have to comply with it. Why didn’t the White House receive the report? Because they refuse to open the e-mail. You just can’t make this stuff up. The White House says that if they don’t open the e-mail, it doesn’t count. The EPA has hacked out big chunks of that report—the parts that recommended, y’know, doing stuff—in order to get the White House to agree to open the e-mail.
A decade ago this would have been the stuff of farce. And a decade from now this will all just be a bad memory. But right now, thanks to the boiling-frog effect, somehow it’s just not shocking that we have a president that is employing the logic of a toddler.
If we pretend that there are no greenhouse gases, will they still harm us?