Dubya Watch
"Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want,
and deserve to get it good and hard." -- H.L. Mencken

Sunday, April 30, 2006
Remember, he's "the decider."
The Founding Fathers would be spinning in their graves, if they knew what George Bush was up to. You ought to be incensed as well.
President Bush has quietly claimed the authority to disobey more than 750 laws enacted since he took office, asserting that he has the power to set aside any statute passed by Congress when it conflicts with his interpretation of the Constitution.

Among the laws Bush said he can ignore are military rules and regulations, affirmative-action provisions, requirements that Congress be told about immigration services problems, "whistle-blower" protections for nuclear regulatory officials, and safeguards against political interference in federally funded research.

Legal scholars say the scope and aggression of Bush's assertions that he can bypass laws represent a concerted effort to expand his power at the expense of Congress, upsetting the balance between the branches of government. The Constitution is clear in assigning to Congress the power to write the laws and to the president a duty "to take care that the laws be faithfully executed." Bush, however, has repeatedly declared that he does not need to "execute" a law he believes is unconstitutional.

Former administration officials contend that just because Bush reserves the right to disobey a law does not mean he is not enforcing it: In many cases, he is simply asserting his belief that a certain requirement encroaches on presidential power.

But with the disclosure of Bush's domestic spying program, in which he ignored a law requiring warrants to tap the phones of Americans, many legal specialists say Bush is hardly reluctant to bypass laws he believes he has the constitutional authority to override.

Far more than any predecessor, Bush has been aggressive about declaring his right to ignore vast swaths of laws -- many of which he says infringe on power he believes the Constitution assigns to him alone as the head of the executive branch or the commander in chief of the military.

Many legal scholars say they believe that Bush's theory about his own powers goes too far and that he is seizing for himself some of the law-making role of Congress and the Constitution-interpreting role of the courts.

Phillip Cooper, a Portland State University law professor who has studied the executive power claims Bush made during his first term, said Bush and his legal team have spent the past five years quietly working to concentrate ever more governmental power into the White House.

"There is no question that this administration has been involved in a very carefully thought-out, systematic process of expanding presidential power at the expense of the other branches of government," Cooper said. "This is really big, very expansive, and very significant."

Monday, March 14, 2005
Bush Administration to Government Accountability Office: Drop dead!
The Bush Administration has made heavy use of PR: paying commentators to support their agenda and releasing video segments that often air on local stations as "news," without its origin being revealed. The latter was criticized as illegal by a government organization ... but the administration doesn't care:
The Bush administration, rejecting an opinion from the Government Accountability Office, said last week that it is legal for federal agencies to feed TV stations prepackaged news stories that do not disclose the government's role in producing them.

That message, in memos sent Friday to federal agency heads and general counsels, contradicts a Feb. 17 memo from Comptroller General David M. Walker. Walker wrote that such stories -- designed to resemble independently reported broadcast news stories so that TV stations can run them without editing -- violate provisions in annual appropriations laws that ban covert propaganda.

But Joshua B. Bolten, director of the Office of Management and Budget, and Steven G. Bradbury, principal deputy assistant attorney general at the Justice Department, said in memos last week that the administration disagrees with the GAO's ruling. And, in any case, they wrote, the department's Office of Legal Counsel, not the GAO, the investigative arm of Congress, provides binding legal interpretations for federal agencies to follow.

Monday, February 21, 2005
Another thing George Bush will never tell you.
Bush is running around the country blaming lawsuits for driving up the cost of malpractice insurance for doctors. But the facts indicate otherwise:
But for all the worry over higher medical expenses, legal costs do not seem to be at the root of the recent increase in malpractice insurance premiums. Government and industry data show only a modest rise in malpractice claims over the last decade. And last year, the trend in payments for malpractice claims against doctors and other medical professionals turned sharply downward, falling 8.9 percent, to a nationwide total of $4.6 billion, according to data compiled by the Health and Human Services Department...

Lawsuits against doctors are just one of several factors that have driven up the cost of malpractice insurance, specialists say. Lately, the more important factors appear to be the declining investment earnings of insurance companies and the changing nature of competition in the industry.

The recent spike in premiums - which is now showing signs of steadying - says more about the insurance business than it does about the judicial system.

But these facts are inconvenient for business and for the goal of undercutting a fundraising source for Democrats, which is why you'll never hear them from Bush.

Monday, February 14, 2005
He's leaving a budget mess for others to clean up
George Bush's budgets feature costs that will explode after he leaves office, explains the Washington Post:
Even if Bush succeeds in slashing the deficit in half in four years, as he has pledged, his major policy prescriptions would leave his successor with massive financial commitments that begin rising dramatically the year he relinquishes the White House, according to an analysis of new budget figures.

Bush's extensive tax cuts, the new Medicare prescription drug benefit and, if it passes, his plan to redesign Social Security all balloon in cost several years from now. His plan to partially privatize Social Security, for instance, would cost a total of $79.5 billion in the last two budgets that Bush will propose as president and an additional $675 billion in the five years that follow. New Medicare figures likewise show the cost almost twice as high as originally estimated, largely because it mushrooms long after the Bush presidency...

By the time the next president comes along, some analysts said, not only will there be little if any flexibility for any new initiatives, but the entire four-year term could be spent figuring out how to accommodate the long-range cost of Bush's policies.

Whatever faults Republicans used to have, you could count on them for fiscal responsibility. But those days are long over.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005
I feel the same way.
Reuters reports from Europe:
The rest of the world will be watching with anxiety when President Bush is inaugurated Thursday for a second time, fearing the most powerful man on the planet may do more harm than good.

Many world leaders, alienated by Bush's go-it-alone foreign policy and the U.S.-led war in Iraq, would have preferred him to lose the U.S. election last November. Since his victory, they have been urging him to listen and consult more.

Mistrust also runs deep among ordinary people. Some 58 percent of people surveyed in a British Broadcasting Corporation poll in 21 countries said they believed Bush's re-election made the world a more dangerous place.

Time to go to the mattresses.
I've decided to start a new blog dedicated to one of the most important political issues facing us this year. I call it The War on Social Security, for that's what it is: a deceptive attack by conservative idealogues to effectively destroy one of the best social programs ever created. They hate the idea of government being involved, and want individuals to assume responsibility. The buzz phrase is "the ownership society." What this phrase really means is "you're on your own."

It's one thing for them to have this opinion; while I don't agree, I don't question its validity. What inflames me is that they are cloaking their plans in the guise of "saving" Social Security. They've tried for 70 years now to convince Americans that Social Security is bad. Unsurprisingly, the public has never agreed. So now they're perpetuating a sneak attack that begins by peddling the myth that the program faces an imminent crisis.

I say it's time to go to the mattresses on this one. We need to tell all our Senators and Representatives, both Republicans and Democrats (for there are a few who appear willing to cave in on the issue) to reject the Bush Administration's plans for Social Security. Bush means business, and he wants action this year. We need to stop him, and pressuring Congress is the only way it can happen.

I can foresee that the issue of Social Security will be dominating my attention in the months ahead -- along with some personal issues, anyway -- and rather than have it swamp this page, I decided to give it a separate one. So please read The War on Social Security, not because I have any unique insights, but because I'll be trying to link to those who do ... and to the accurate facts, which are going to be in short supply from this administration.

Friday, January 14, 2005
"The fabricated crisis is the hallmark of the Bush presidency."
More on the previously noted tendency of George Bush to label things as a "crisis" in order to get his way:
Some presidents make the history books by managing crises. Lincoln had Fort Sumter, Roosevelt had the Depression and Pearl Harbor, and Kennedy had the missiles in Cuba. George W. Bush, of course, had Sept. 11, and for a while thereafter -- through the overthrow of the Taliban -- he earned his page in history, too.

But when historians look back at the Bush presidency, they're more likely to note that what sets Bush apart is not the crises he managed but the crises he fabricated. The fabricated crisis is the hallmark of the Bush presidency. To attain goals that he had set for himself before he took office -- the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, the privatization of Social Security -- he concocted crises where there were none.

And from a different article in today's Washington Post is the clearest possible explanation of what's to come:
President Bush plans to reactivate his reelection campaign's network of donors and activists to build pressure on lawmakers to allow workers to invest part of their Social Security taxes in the stock market, according to Republican strategists.

White House allies are launching a market-research project to figure out how to sell the plan in the most comprehensible and appealing way, and Republican marketing and public-relations gurus are building teams of consultants to promote it, the strategists said.

The campaign will use Bush's campaign-honed techniques of mass repetition, never deviating from the script and using the politics of fear to build support -- contending that a Social Security financial crisis is imminent when even Republican figures show it is decades away.

Monday, January 10, 2005
They hide the cost of what they've already done.
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities points out that, over the next 75 years, Bush's tax cuts (assuming they're made permanent) and Medicare drug benefit will cost five times more than the Social Security shortfall that he's trying to scare us with:
The President has suggested or implied that Social Security presents a greater budgetary problem than Medicare or his tax cuts, and that the Medicare prescription drug bill will help to reduce the overall cost of Medicare by averting unnecessary hospitalizations. Analysis conducted by the Social Security and Medicare Trustees and actuaries, the Congressional Budget Office, and the Government Accountability Office, among others, show that such views are mistaken.

The reality is that the Social Security shortfall, while sizeable, is not gargantuan, and it is not necessary to alter Social Security’s basic structure to close the shortfall. Both rising health care costs, which drive much of the projected growth in Medicare costs, and the long-term cost of the President’s tax cuts pose much larger budgetary problems.

(via Talking Points Memo)

Sunday, January 09, 2005
Every issue is a "crisis."
Yesterday's Washington Post points out how Bush calls an issue a "crisis" to try and get what he wants:
Warning of the need for urgent action on his Social Security plan, Bush says the "crisis is now" for a system even the most pessimistic observers say will take in more in taxes than it pays out in benefits well into the next decade.

He calls the proliferation of medical liability lawsuits a "crisis in America" that can be fixed only by limiting a patient's right to sue for large damages. And Bush has repeatedly accused Senate Democrats of creating a "vacancy crisis" on the federal bench by refusing to confirm a small percentage of his judicial nominees.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005
How they'll gut Social Security.
Today we get some insight into the Bush Administration's plan to destroy Social Security, courtesy of the Washington Post:
The Bush administration has signaled that it will propose changing the formula that sets initial Social Security benefit levels, cutting promised benefits by nearly a third in the coming decades, according to several Republicans close to the White House.

Under the proposal, the first-year benefits for retirees would be calculated using inflation rates rather than the rise in wages over a worker's lifetime. Because wages tend to rise considerably faster than inflation, the new formula would stunt the growth of benefits, slowly at first but more quickly by the middle of the century. The White House hopes that some, if not all, of those benefit cuts would be made up by gains in newly created personal investment accounts that would harness returns on stocks and bonds.

Josh Marshall has the real story:
After 1980 we started borrowing money big-time to finance our deficits -- in large part because of tax cuts on high-income earners. However you want to slice it, we started spending substantially more than we were taking in in tax revenue.

So where'd we borrow the money?

This is from memory, so I may have the numbers a bit off. But I believe about $4 trillion of that debt was borrowed on the open market -- individual Americans have them in their investment portfolios, or pension funds hold them, or the Chinese, Japanese and the Saudis and others have them in bonds.

But about $3 trillion of those dollars we needed to fund the 1980s and 1990s deficits we managed to borrow closer to home. We borrowed it from the Social Security (and a few other government) trust fund(s).

Almost the entirety of President Bush's Social Security phase-out plan comes down to a simple proposition: finding out how not to pay it back.

Now, admittedly, this is an approach that the president is rather familiar with from his own business career at various failed energy companies. But it is, in so many words, a straight up con -- one of vast scale, and one which virtually no one in the media ever frames in just these terms.

Sunday, December 05, 2004
They put all their faith in technology.
As the pile of evidence for global warming mounts ever higher, the Bush Administration refuses to consider introducing limits on carbon dioxide emissions, believing that technology will save us.

(Yes, I said "global warming," not the neutered "climate change" terminology invented by Frank Luntz that Republicans use.)

Wednesday, November 10, 2004
His new AG nominee approves of appalling things.
Now that John Ashcroft is leaving his post as Attorney General, I feel so much better knowing that our next Attorney General will be the man who advised George Bush that he could legally:
  • hold suspects without allowing them access to the courts or even a lawyer
  • ignore the Geneva Convention
  • torture prisoners to obtain information

It's better than putting him on the Supreme Court, I suppose ... although that could still happen, too.

Thursday, October 28, 2004
He wanted to go after Iraq from the beginning.
Yet another source says George Bush had plans for Iraq early on -- before he was president. The source is a writer who was co-writing Bush's autobiography until he displeased Karen Hughes:
“He was thinking about invading Iraq in 1999,” said author and journalist Mickey Herskowitz. “It was on his mind. He said to me: ‘One of the keys to being seen as a great leader is to be seen as a commander-in-chief.’ And he said, ‘My father had all this political capital built up when he drove the Iraqis out of Kuwait and he wasted it.’ He said, ‘If I have a chance to invade….if I had that much capital, I’m not going to waste it. I’m going to get everything passed that I want to get passed and I’m going to have a successful presidency.”

Herskowitz said that Bush expressed frustration at a lifetime as an underachiever in the shadow of an accomplished father. In aggressive military action, he saw the opportunity to emerge from his father’s shadow. The moment, Herskowitz said, came in the wake of the September 11 attacks. “Suddenly, he’s at 91 percent in the polls, and he’d barely crawled out of the bunker.”

Not a surprise by any means. But it's yet another piece of proof. (via Metafilter)

Saturday, October 23, 2004
Just the facts.
From The Nation: 100 Facts and 1 Opinion - The Non-Arguable Case Against the Bush Administration, complete with links to sources and a PDF version for printing. (via Devoter)

Monday, October 18, 2004
He makes decisions based upon faith and instinct, not facts.
Sunday's NYT Magazine contained what may be the most frightening article yet by a respected journalist (former WSJ reporter Ron Suskind) about the Bush Administration's decision-making process. It relies on faith (both religious and "gut instinct") and is controlled by an increasingly smaller group of people.

This long article contains too many examples to include here; here are two. The first provides a decent summary of what the entire article is about:
Machiavelli's oft-cited line about the adequacy of the perception of power prompts a question. Is the appearance of confidence as important as its possession? Can confidence -- true confidence -- be willed? Or must it be earned?

George W. Bush, clearly, is one of history's great confidence men. That is not meant in the huckster's sense, though many critics claim that on the war in Iraq, the economy and a few other matters he has engaged in some manner of bait-and-switch. No, I mean it in the sense that he's a believer in the power of confidence. At a time when constituents are uneasy and enemies are probing for weaknesses, he clearly feels that unflinching confidence has an almost mystical power. It can all but create reality.

Whether you can run the world on faith, it's clear you can run one hell of a campaign on it.

George W. Bush and his team have constructed a high-performance electoral engine. The soul of this new machine is the support of millions of likely voters, who judge his worth based on intangibles -- character, certainty, fortitude and godliness -- rather than on what he says or does. The deeper the darkness, the brighter this filament of faith glows, a faith in the president and the just God who affirms him.

This may be the most frightening quote; the unidentified aide sounds like one of the gung-ho neoconservatives that surround Bush:
In the summer of 2002, after I had written an article in Esquire that the White House didn't like about Bush's former communications director, Karen Hughes, I had a meeting with a senior adviser to Bush. He expressed the White House's displeasure, and then he told me something that at the time I didn't fully comprehend -- but which I now believe gets to the very heart of the Bush presidency.

The aide said that guys like me were "in what we call the reality-based community," which he defined as people who "believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality." I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. "That's not the way the world really works anymore," he continued. "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors ... and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."

Their denial of reality makes more sense now.

Sunday, October 10, 2004
He cloaks his intent by speaking in code.
I was watching the second presidential debate Friday night -- of course -- when I was puzzled by one of George Bush's answers. Here's the complete question and answer from a transcript; see if it strikes you the same way:
GIBSON: Mr. President, the next question is for you, and it comes from Jonathan Michaelson, over here.

MICHAELSON: Mr. President, if there were a vacancy in the Supreme Court and you had the opportunity to fill that position today, who would you choose and why?

BUSH: I'm not telling.


I really don't have -- haven't picked anybody yet. Plus, I want them all voting for me.


I would pick somebody who would not allow their personal opinion to get in the way of the law. I would pick somebody who would strictly interpret the Constitution of the United States.

Let me give you a couple of examples, I guess, of the kind of person I wouldn't pick.

I wouldn't pick a judge who said that the Pledge of Allegiance couldn't be said in a school because it had the words "under God" in it. I think that's an example of a judge allowing personal opinion to enter into the decision-making process as opposed to a strict interpretation of the Constitution.

Another example would be the Dred Scott case, which is where judges, years ago, said that the Constitution allowed slavery because of personal property rights.

That's a personal opinion. That's not what the Constitution says. The Constitution of the United States says we're all -- you know, it doesn't say that. It doesn't speak to the equality of America.

And so, I would pick people that would be strict constructionists. We've got plenty of lawmakers in Washington, D.C. Legislators make law; judges interpret the Constitution.

And I suspect one of us will have a pick at the end of next year -- the next four years. And that's the kind of judge I'm going to put on there. No litmus test except for how they interpret the Constitution.

Dred Scott? Why would he bring up the Dred Scott case?

I should have figured it out, but I didn't. I only stumbled across the explanation by accident: He was speaking in code, another one of those things he slips in for the benefit of his followers, like at the end of the first debate ("We've climbed the mighty mountain. I see the valley below, and it's a valley of peace."). Except that Biblical allusion wasn't a secret message about what one of his policies would be. The Dred Scott reference was.

Dred Scott v. Sandford = Roe v. Wade

If you're anti-abortion, anyway. Here's where I stumbled across it, along with two explanations.

To see the parallel that many advocates do, refresh yourself with the Dred Scott decision:
The Court first held that Scott was not a "citizen" within the meaning of the United States Constitution as that term was understood at the time the Constitution was adopted and therefore not able to bring suit in federal court. According to the Court, the drafters of the Constitution had viewed all African-Americans as "beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations, and so far inferior that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect."

And they compare this to the finding in Roe:
The appellee and certain amici argue that the fetus is a "person" within the language and meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment. In support of this, they outline at length and in detail the well-known facts of fetal development. If this suggestion of personhood is established, the appellant's case, of course, collapses, [410 U.S. 113, 157] for the fetus' right to life would then be guaranteed specifically by the Amendment. The appellant conceded as much on reargument. On the other hand, the appellee conceded on reargument that no case could be cited that holds that a fetus is a person within the meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment.

The Constitution does not define "person" in so many words... in nearly all these instances, the use of the word is such that it has application only postnatally. None indicates, with any assurance, that it has any possible pre-natal application. [410 U.S. 113, 158]

All this, together with our observation, supra, that throughout the major portion of the 19th century prevailing legal abortion practices were far freer than they are today, persuades us that the word "person," as used in the Fourteenth Amendment, does not include the unborn.

In short, the decision that a fetus is not a person will eventually be viewed in the same way that we view the decision that a Negro is not a person. If you think I'm making this interpretation up, a quick scan of some Google search results will show otherwise.

So this is what happened Friday night: George Bush promised to appoint Supreme Court justices who will seek to overturn Roe v. Wade.

That's his right, of course, although you may or may not agree with it. But what I find deeply offensive is his speaking in code. Come out and say it in plain English so that everyone can understand what you mean, Mr. President, instead of cloaking your intent.

I'd love to see Bob Scheiffer ask Bush to explain this at the third and final debate this Wednesday.

Update: If I had waited a day, I could have simply pointed you to this Slate article, which elaborates further on how the Christian Right views Dred Scott.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004
His definition of success is wrong.
Rafe Coburn has this short but incisive criticism:
I think one of the reasons I'm so obsessed with missile defense is that I find that the program is emblematic about every initiative pursued by the Bush administration. Success is judged by intentions rather than by results.

He's not the first to observe this -- Fareed Zakaria made a similar point in Newsweek awhile back, specifically about Iraq -- but to see it expressed so clearly and simply is illuminating, I think.

The point of that particular post was missile defense, and he pointed to this Slate article noting that it still doesn't work yet we're still throwing billions of dollars into it.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004
He's not a true conservative.
Another one of those pesky facts that most people aren't aware of:
The expansive agenda President Bush laid out at the Republican National Convention was missing a price tag, but administration figures show the total is likely to be well in excess of $3 trillion over a decade.

A staple of Bush's stump speech is his claim that his Democratic challenger, John F. Kerry, has proposed $2 trillion in long-term spending, a figure the Massachusetts senator's campaign calls exaggerated. But the cost of the new tax breaks and spending outlined by Bush at the GOP convention far eclipses that of the Kerry plan.

Saturday, August 28, 2004
He has others do his political dirty work.
Today's New York Times lays out more clearly than ever the Bush ties to the "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth" smear group. If you don't have time to read the article, just study this graphic for a moment.

No wonder Bush's press secretary keeps changing the subject to "all 527 groups" whenever he's asked if Bush will ask for the ads to be stopped.

Thursday, August 26, 2004
More on the Bush history of dirty tricks.
CBS News producer Dick Meyer on Dirty Tricks, Patrician Style:
Any student of Bush family campaigns could have seen the swift boat shiv shining a mile away. This old family has traditions – horseshoes, fishing, bad syntax and having the help do the dirty work in campaigns as well as the kitchen. And they are very good at getting jobs done without leaving fingerprints, without compromising their patrician image and their alleged character.
(via Talking Points Memo)

Wednesday, July 28, 2004
He relies on undergrad term papers for research.
Showing the same dedication to "facts" that led us to war in Iraq, George Bush recently accused Cuba of sex tourism, undoubtedly aimed at proving his anti-Castro credentials with Cuban-American voters in Florida. How good are the administration sources? Try a Dartmouth undergrad's term paper found on the Internet and taken out of context. From MSNBC:

Speaking to Florida law enforcement officials on July 16, Bush claimed the Cuban leader shamelessly promotes sex tourism.

“The dictator welcomes sex tourism. Here’s how he bragged about the industry,” said Bush. “This is his quote — ‘Cuba has the cleanest and most educated prostitutes in the world’ and ‘sex tourism is a vital source of hard currency.’”

The president made his accusations amid the release of the State Department yearly report on global human trafficking, which lists Cuba among the top ten violators.

Three days after Bush’s remarks, the Los Angeles Times reported that the White House found the comments in a Dartmouth undergraduate paper posted on the Internet and lifted them out of context. “It shows they didn’t read much of the article,” commented Charlie Trumbull, the author.

Speaking in 1992 to the Cuban parliament, Castro actually said, “There are prostitutes, but prostitution is not allowed in our country. There are no women forced to sell themselves to a man, to a foreigner, to a tourist.”

More details at The Register.
(via BoingBoing)

Sunday, April 11, 2004
When does this guy work?
For a guy who wanted to be president, George Bush sure spends a lot of time away from the White House, as noted by the Washington Post:
This is Bush's 33rd visit to his ranch since becoming president. He has spent all or part of 233 days on his Texas ranch since taking office, according to a tally by CBS News. Adding his 78 visits to Camp David and his five visits to Kennebunkport, Maine, Bush has spent all or part of 500 days in office at one of his three retreats, or more than 40 percent of his presidency.

Sunday, January 04, 2004
They suppress dissent.
Going to an event where George Bush will be, or along the motorcade route? You're perfectly welcome to come -- as long as your sign supports the President. If it doesn't, you have to go stand in the designated protest zone where you will never be seen. And this isn't some "liberal rag" reporting this; it's from the American Conservative magazine (founded by Pat Buchanan), and was adapted and reprinted by the San Francisco Chronicle.

Here's an excerpt:
When Bush travels around the United States, the Secret Service visits the location ahead of time and orders local police to set up “free speech zones” or “protest zones” where people opposed to Bush policies (and sometimes sign-carrying supporters) are quarantined. These zones routinely succeed in keeping protesters out of presidential sight and outside the view of media covering the event.

When Bush came to the Pittsburgh area on Labor Day 2002, 65-year-old retired steel worker Bill Neel was there to greet him with a sign proclaiming, “The Bush family must surely love the poor, they made so many of us.” The local police, at the Secret Service’s behest, set up a “designated free-speech zone” on a baseball field surrounded by a chain-link fence a third of a mile from the location of Bush’s speech. The police cleared the path of the motorcade of all critical signs, though folks with pro-Bush signs were permitted to line the president’s path. Neel refused to go to the designated area and was arrested for disorderly conduct; the police also confiscated his sign. Neel later commented, “As far as I’m concerned, the whole country is a free speech zone. If the Bush administration has its way, anyone who criticizes them will be out of sight and out of mind.”

At Neel’s trial, police detective John Ianachione testified that the Secret Service told local police to confine “people that were there making a statement pretty much against the president and his views” in a so-called free speech area. Paul Wolf, one of the top officials in the Allegheny County Police Department, told Salon that the Secret Service “come in and do a site survey, and say, ‘Here’s a place where the people can be, and we’d like to have any protesters put in a place that is able to be secured.’” Pennsylvania district judge Shirley Rowe Trkula threw out the disorderly conduct charge against Neel, declaring, “I believe this is America. Whatever happened to ‘I don’t agree with you, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it’?”

It goes to explain the ways the Administration is trying to get around the pesky free speech thing so they can do what they want. Read it all.

Friday, November 28, 2003
So much for the glorious trip to Baghdad.
Unfortunately, I expect that History Professor Juan Cole's take on Bush's secret Baghdad trip is the minority view. (via rc3.org)

Friday, November 07, 2003
They refuse to answer budgetary question from Democratic members of Congress.
The arrogance is simply breathtaking, but there it is:
The Bush White House, irritated by pesky questions from congressional Democrats about how the administration is using taxpayer money, has developed an efficient solution: It will not entertain any more questions from opposition lawmakers.

The decision -- one that Democrats and scholars said is highly unusual -- was announced in an e-mail sent Wednesday to the staff of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees. House committee Democrats had just asked for information about how much the White House spent making and installing the "Mission Accomplished" banner for President Bush's May 1 speech aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln.

Sunday, July 20, 2003
They ignore scientific consensus.
I've noted last year how the Bush administration only picks scientists who agree with their views to fill government positions. The Washington Monthly takes a broader look at the subject:
The administration's stem-cell stand is just one of many examples, from climate change to abstinence-only sex-education programs, in which the White House has made policies that defy widely accepted scientific opinion. Why this administration feels unbound by the consensus of academic scientists can be gleaned, in part, from a telling anecdote in Nicholas Lemann's recent New Yorker profile of Karl Rove. When asked by Lemann to define a Democrat, Bush's chief political strategist replied, "Somebody with a doctorate." Lemann noted, "This he said with perhaps the suggestion of a smirk." Fundamentally, much of today's GOP, like Rove, seems to smirkingly equate academics, including scientists, with liberals.

(Via RC3.org)

Friday, January 03, 2003
Government by secrecy. NYT's Adam Clymer -- you remember him, the reporter Bush described as a "major league asshole" -- has a big story in today's paper about the Bush Administration's mania for secrecy. Not a lot new here, but it's worth seeing on how many fronts the governoment is pursuing it. Also a bit scary is that they seem to have learned how to back off just enough to quiet critics in their own party. Plus Ari Fleischer's bald-faced lies are pretty impressive:
The Bush administration contends that it is not trying to make government less open. Ari Fleischer, the president's press secretary, said, "The bottom line remains the president is dedicated to an open government, a responsive government, while he fully exercises the authority of the executive branch."

Notice how that last phrase can effectively contradict everything preceding it.
Mr. Fleischer contends that there is no secrecy problem. "I make the case that we are more accessible and open than many previous administrations — given how many times [Secretary of State Colin L.] Powell, Rumsfeld and Ashcroft have briefed," he said.

Translation: Never mind the documents we're hiding; we're open because we'll give you our side of the story any time you want.
Asked if there was anyone in the administration who was a consistent advocate of openness, who argued that secrecy hurt as well as helped, Mr. Fleischer said President Bush was that person.

Now we're taking this to Orwellian dimensions -- the guy who wants to keep everything secret is actually the most open!

Monday, December 16, 2002
They want to shift taxes from the rich to everyone else. Our current administration believes that the rich are paying too many taxes, because the poor aren't paying enough. Read this article for some of their convoluted logic:
As the Bush administration draws up plans to simplify the tax system, it is also refining arguments for why it may be necessary to shift more of the tax load onto lower-income workers.

Economists at the Treasury Department are drafting new ways to calculate the distribution of tax burdens among different income classes, which are expected to highlight what administration officials see as a rising tax burden on the rich and a declining burden on the poor. The White House Council of Economic Advisers is also preparing a report detailing the concentration of the tax burden on the affluent and highlighting problems with the way tax burdens are calculated for the poor.

Tuesday, October 22, 2002
He lies exaggerates is imprecise with facts. In a story that I'm sure will further his reign as the Bush Administration's least favorite reporter, The Washington Post's Dana Milbank tallies up a list of things that Bush has been claiming that simply aren't true. As the headline puts it, "For Bush, Facts Are Malleable":
As Bush leads the nation toward a confrontation with Iraq and his party into battle in midterm elections, his rhetoric has taken some flights of fancy in recent weeks. Statements on subjects ranging from the economy to Iraq suggest that a president who won election underscoring Al Gore's knack for distortions and exaggerations has been guilty of a few himself.

Presidential embroidery is, of course, a hoary tradition. Ronald Reagan was known for his apocryphal story about liberating a concentration camp. Bill Clinton fibbed famously and under oath about his personal indiscretions to keep a step ahead of Whitewater prosecutors. Richard M. Nixon had his Watergate denials, and Lyndon B. Johnson was often accused of stretching the truth to put the best face on the Vietnam War. Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy, too, played with the truth during the Gary Powers and Bay of Pigs episodes.

"Everybody makes mistakes when they open their mouths and we forgive them," Brookings Institution scholar Stephen Hess said. Some of Bush's overstatements appear to be off-the-cuff mistakes. But, Hess said, "what worries me about some of these is they appear to be with foresight. This is about public policy in its grandest sense, about potential wars and who is our enemy, and a president has a special obligation to getting it right."

Monday, October 21, 2002
He uses HHS money to pay for campaign trips. We might never have known had someone not slipped the documents to The Washington Post:

The White House has billed the federal Office of Family Assistance $210,000 to help pay for five trips in which President Bush promoted welfare reform at official events and made separate fundraising appearances for GOP candidates.

The White House and Department of Health and Human Services said the spending and the trips were appropriate promotions of administration initiatives. The Clinton administration employed similar billing practices, they said.

So Republicans now cite things Clinton did as appropriate behavior, eh?

Tuesday, September 17, 2002
He only wants science that agrees with what he and his allies believe. The Washington Post reports: "The Bush administration has begun a broad restructuring of the scientific advisory committees that guide federal policy in areas such as patients' rights and public health, eliminating some committees that were coming to conclusions at odds with the president's views and in other cases replacing members with handpicked choices." This is truly disgusting. We're not talking about political patronage here, we're talking about naming committees of foxes to establish hen-house guarding policies.
"It's always a matter of qualifications first and foremost," [HHS spokesman] Pierce said. "There's no quotas on any of this stuff. There's no litmus test of any kind."

At least one nationally renowned academic, who was recently called by an administration official to talk about serving on an HHS advisory committee, disagreed with that assessment. To the candidate's surprise, the official asked for the professor's views on embryo cell research, cloning and physician-assisted suicide. After that, the candidate said, the interviewer told the candidate that the position would have to go to someone else because the candidate's views did not match those of the administration.

Asked to reconcile that experience with his previous assurance, Pierce said of the interview questions: "Those are not litmus tests."

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Cost of the War in Iraq
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