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This Is What Democracy Looks Like

Today's Note From a Madman

January 29, 2008


From the State of the Union

PRESIDENT BUSH: Seven years have passed since I first stood before you at this rostrum. In that time, our country has been tested in ways none of us could have imagined.
MADMAN: Now that's not entirely true, is it Mr. President. After all, wasn't it those given valuable positions in your White House who not only predicted, but hoped for a 9-11-type occurrence at least as far back as 1999? Allow me to refresh your memory:
PNAC (The Project for a New American Century) STATEMENT: "a new Pearl Harbor.”
MADMAN: And if memory serves me correct, those who signed onto this PNAC and its philosophy were none other than: Your brother and former Florida Governor (and short-lister for the Vice Presidential nod in 2008) Jeb Bush; your former and long-time Chief of Staff Andrew Card (the guy who informed you that the Twin Towers had fallen, which didn't cause you to leave the Texas school for an additional twelve minutes!); and none other than your chief advisor - the man who, when put in charge of the Vice Presidential nominee search said, "I found the guy! Me!" - Vice President Dick Cheney.

BUSH: We faced hard decisions about peace and war, rising competition in the world economy, and the health and welfare of our citizens. These issues call for vigorous debate, and I think it's fair to say we've answered the call.
MADMAN: Taking these one at a time, the decision about "peace and war" wasn't really much of a decision at all, was it President Bush. After all, we had no choice but to go into Afghanistan to chase Osama bin-Lade. The chase, however, isn't over and the leader of al-Qaeda worldwide is still free. Somehow he was allowed to fly out of the mountainous region of Tora Bora and continue to be public enemy number one. And the one who has best benefited from his, shall we say, elusiveness, has been you and your administration, Mr. Bush.
And as far as the "other war" in Iraq is concerned, the 935 (plus?) lies told by you, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, and the rest of your band of war-mongerers were the reasons used to go into Iraq and form a "Stay the Course" war with no end, or plan for such an ending, in sight. In fact, you even stated that the war in Iraq could take fifty years, a sentiment doubled by your would-be successor, Senator John McCain. We all know by now that this war - YOUR war in Iraq - was not a decision of "war or peace, but one of "war and nothing else."
MADMAN: That " rising competition in the world economy" is yet another war which you are helping America's middle class lose, President Bush. As we see our dollar shrink into a currency which only a Third World nation might envy, even the things you bragged about in previous State of the Union addresses (i.e..: housing prices on the rise) have fallen and caused even more Americans to be pushed to the brink. The "competition in the world economy" you speak of is a battle lost for the vast majority of the American people. Only your true "base" of "haves and have mores", as you've described the ultra-rich made even more rich by you and your administration, have benefited from this, your economy. You've taken us from "It's the economy, stupid," to "They're too stupid to see what we're doing to the economy, Dick." With jobs lost to overseas manufacturers; the stranglehold that the gas companies, owned from top to bottom, have on us; the rising cost of health care, for those of us who can afford it; and the complete and utter destruction of the fabric of America, its middle class, that "competition" is now lost to many who used to be, and in some cases, still are, our enemies.

BUSH: The actions of the 110th Congress will affect the security and prosperity of our nation long after this session has ended.
MADMAN: And the actions of the 108th and 109th Congress, both dominated by GOP majorities in the House of Representatives and the Senate, to go along with a Republican NeoCon President will be noted by history as the worst and most ineffective governing bodies in US history. Not once in your first term in office did you veto even one bill presented to you. That Congress did your bidding and it hurt the US middle class almost each and every time, from your tax break for the very rich to the banking bill which attacked the poorest Americans, yet allowed those global corporations to declare bankruptcy without any effect on their CEOs' golden parachutes.

BUSH: America has added jobs for a record 52 straight months, but jobs are now growing at a slower pace.
MADMAN: That, of course, doesn't include August of this past year where we lost - that's right, LOST - 4,000 jobs. But, hey, what's 4,000 jobs to this administration, After all, they're just middle class workers who really don't count, right Mr. Bush.
And what about the fact that even your spin-meisters can't spin the unemployment rate any longer. The percentage of Americans who have jobs today is less than that of your father's administration! Our unemployment rate continues to grow. The previous administration of Bill Clinton left you with a record 3.8 percent unemployment rate. And even though the rate climbed to, and consistently hovered near 4.5 percent, you kept taking credit for a job well done. Today the unemployment rate has risen to an even 5 percent and appears to be climbing (unless you can fudge the numbers some more).
If you were just able to keep the status quo left to you by President Clinton, President Bush, today an additional 4 million Americans would have jobs and that, sir, is what would make this country a global economic factor from its real base - the American middle class - once again.

BUSH: We have other work to do on taxes. Unless Congress acts, most of the tax relief we've delivered over the past seven years will be taken away. Some in Washington argue that letting tax relief expire is not a tax increase.
MADMAN: And it wouldn't be a tax increase if we only took it away from the top one percent of Americans who benefited with the lion's share of that tax cut designed to make them even more well off. If our Congress, either through you, President Bush, or through our next President - one who could see the forest for the trees - were to take that directed tax break to the rich and redirected it to the middle class, not only couldn't you then call it a tax increase, but you might see something happen that hasn't happened since you took office - real economic growth that does, in fact, lift all boats with its rising tide.

BUSH: Just as we trust Americans with their own money, we need to earn their trust by spending their tax dollars wisely. Next week, I'll send you a budget that terminates or substantially reduces 151 wasteful or bloated programs, totaling more than $18 billion. The budget that I will submit will keep America on track for a surplus in 2012. American families have to balance their budgets; so should their government.
The people's trust in their government is undermined by congressional earmarks -- special interest projects that are often snuck in at the last minute, without discussion or debate.
MADMAN: If there is one earmark - because that's what President Bush is speaking about here, earmarks - which is the poster-child for corruption in government it is the earmark that gave millions of dollars to the state of Alaska, at the insistence of REPUBLICAN Senator Ted Stevens, to build a bridge to nowhere. All that money was allocated by the GOP controlled Congress and signed into law by you, President Bush. Plain and simple, it was a gift to Senator Stevens who wanted to show that no matter how much it cost the rest of the American middle class, he could still bring home their bacon.
Why didn't you veto that piece of legislation? Why was it that your signature appeared more often on wasteful earmarks than any other president in American history?
Don't bother answering, Mr. Bush, fore even if you heard me, you wouldn't have been paying attention.
BUSH: And tomorrow, I will issue an executive order that directs federal agencies to ignore any future earmark that is not voted on by Congress.
MADMAN: JUST STOP SIGNING THEM! You are the last thing standing in the way of an earmark and you have been not only complicit in their being placed into law, but you have been a willing participant. So, JUST STOP SIGNING THEM!

In the end, President bush's last State of the Union address was nothing more than a rehash of his old addresses to Congress and the American people. Still pushing for privatizing Social Security and health savings accounts to make those in his "base" of "haves and have mores" collect even ore of our hard earned dollar, it seems as if this Lame Duck President's sole purpose in his final year at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue will be to make our lives even harder while telling us all how good we have it.

There will be no eleventh-hour epiphany or realization of his failures. No, this president will go down thinking that not only did he do his very best, but his very best was exactly right. The elixir we drank was nothing more than the tainted Kool-Aid provided by his NeoCon brothers and sisters. it's just too bad that too many of us awoke from its effects too late, and even sadder that so many more are still under its spell.

This might have been President Bush's very best. And we have something less than 360 days left before we all get a reprieve.

-Noah Greenberg

On the State of the Union, January 28, 2008

Senators Clinton and Obama were there – each hoping to be the next person to deliver the State of the Union Address. Where was Senator John McCain? Campaigning in Florida because he too hopes to be the next President. And not in DC because he refused to acknowledge the man.

On Israel and the Palestinians, where was President Bush for the last 7 years? He should tell the Palestinians that while the Israelis may have made mistakes, they withdrew from Lebanon in 2000 and Gaza in 2005. The Palestinians reacted by bombing Israel and kidnapping Israeli soldiers. Are they crazy? How did they expect Israel to react? The Palestinians should stop bombing Israel from Gaza and S. Lebanon and start building schools, warehouses, and factories, and build bricks, farms, and houses not bombs. The US should create a new Voice of America that broadcasts news in Arabic in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, etc. Even if it just reads the New York Times, and the Washington Post, it would do wonders.

On FISA where is President Bush leading us? Our intelligence community needs native speakers of Arabic, need people who can get a clearance in less than 18 months. Our government needs people who think critically and creatively, not just sycophants and ‘yes-men.’

We have failed the test of health care, national security, the environment, the economy, emergency response.

Now that the Democrats are in the majority in the House and Senate President Bush wants to cooperate with them.

But on Health Care, he vetoes the SCHIP legislation to provide health care to children. He calls for tax cuts, but every time he cuts taxes, my taxes go up. And what do we get? $800 billion for the war in Iraq. He is talking about vetoing new spending, and balancing the budget, but he does so by taking health care from children. He says “Go to the Emergency Room.”

Let’s think about this. When people without health care go to the emergency room someone pays – the people with health insurance. Now if the Emergency Room is the de facto national health insurance plan, it is funded by health insurance premiums. But seeing a physician in an emergency room is much more expensive than seeing a physician in a medical office. And waiting until an illness is so acute that it is unbearable means the treatment is much more expensive.

But by saying ‘people without health insurance should go to the Emergency Room’ the President agrees that there should be a national health care plan. He just doesn’t know how to implement it. Perhaps he should ask Senator John Edwards, Senator Barack Obama, or Senator Hillary Clinton. I understand that they have pretty good plans, especially Senator Edwards. Or perhaps he should just implement a plan that expands Medicare to cover everyone.

The President boasted about the No Child Left Behind Laws. These laws prompt schools to teach to the tests. These laws make it difficult, if not impossible, for people who lose their jobs to become teachers. The President wants to create “Pell Grants for Kids.” Why then in 2004 did he cut the Pell Grants and eliminate funding for 90,000 college students?

The President wants to use public money to fund parochial schools in the inner cities and elsewhere. Isn’t that a violation of the First Amendment? Maybe we want the Moslem children in Jersey City to go Quaker schools like those in Philadelphia but will they go? Will they go to Catholic School? Or Jewish Yeshiva? Do we want Moslem kids in Jersey City to be home schooled or go to the kinds of Wahabi Islamic Moslem schools that they have in Saudi Arabia? Maybe we should just build public schools?

On Energy – President Bush wants to reduce oil dependence. The Prius gets 45 to 50 miles per gallon. Congress finally passed the first increase in auto mileage standards – to 35 mpg by 2020. They should increase the mileage standards to 35 mpg by 2010 and 70 mpg by 2020.

The President said we need “clean energy.” President Clinton once said “It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.” Well, I wonder what President Bush means when he says “Clean.” Wind power and solar power are clean. Ocean current driven turbines are clean. These produce power with no greenhouse gases, no radioactive wastes, no mercury, no other toxic wastes. They also produce power without compromising national security. Terrorists can not do much damage by destroying a wind turbine or a few solar panels.

The President said we are challenged. Iraq was not involved in the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001. By bring the war to Iraq we created a power vacuum in the region that Iran is trying to fill. We gave Iraq’s oil to Al Qaeda. We had Bin Laden in our sights in Afghanistan, but then we got distracted in Iraq and let him go. What we should do in Iraq is pull back to bases in the Kurdish region, in Turkey, and to aircraft carriers in the Gulf. This would get our troops out of harms’ way, out of the crossfire. It would put Syria and Iran on notice. It would reassure our allies in the region.

President Bush boasted about our troops in Iraq, including the Coast Guard. Well, the Coast Guard is supposed to be guarding the Atlantic Coast, the Pacific Coast, and the Gulf of Mexico, not the Arabian Peninsula and the Persian Gulf.

He pledged to give our troops “all you need to protect our nation.” Shouldn’t he have done this before Dec. 9, 2004 when Rumsfeld, with a comment Marie Antoinette would have approved of, said ‘You go to war with the army you have,’ or May, 2 2003 when he stood on the deck of an aircraft carrier with a sign that read ‘Mission Accomplished.’

-Larry Furman

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-Noah Greenberg