Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Told ya so! . . . Bush uses religion for political gain.

What did I just say? It was confirmed today by David Kuo, former Special Assistant to President George W. Bush and Deputy Director of the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, that Bush never seriously cared about his "faith based initiatives." As Kuo--a longtime Republican and former staffer of William Bennet and John Ashcroft-- says:
Capitol Hill gridlock could have been smashed by minimal West Wing effort. No administration since LBJ's has had a more successful legislative track record than this one. From tax cuts to Medicare, the White House gets what the White House really wants. It never really wanted the "poor people stuff."
To be fair, he blames both Democrats and Republicans for the failure of the programs:
At the end of the day, both parties played to stereotype -- Republicans were indifferent to the poor and the Democrats were allergic to faith.
He describes how Bush's major funding for faith-based initiatives was diverted at the last minute:
In June 2001, the promised tax incentives for charitable giving were stripped at the last minute from the $1.6 trillion tax cut legislation to make room for the estate-tax repeal that overwhelmingly benefited the wealthy.

Wake up people. If you aren't rich, Bush doesn't care about you--No matter how "hard" you pray.

--Tinfoil out

Friday, February 11, 2005

What is Bush exactly?

He's not a Republican--at least not the kind I grew up with. He's not fiscally conservative. He's not for smaller government or reduced spending (just saying it doesn't make it true). If you had to classify him, I'd say he is the first President in recent memory to be completely owned by corporations. I'm not talking about Manchurian Candidate-style conspiracies here. It's considerably more simple and obvious than that. He has spent his whole life with the richest people in the world. His father was President, and heir to large old-money North-East fortune. You don't hear it as much anymore, but when he was elected(?) in 2000, a lot of people called him the first "CEO President"--Which is largely correct. He has an MBA from Harvard Business School, and has served as CEO of Spectrum 7 and later the Director of Harken Energy. (Both companies lost money during Bush's tenure, and he was investigated by the SEC for insider trading for selling off a large portion of his Harken stock to buy a share of the Texas Rangers).

Much has been made of Bush's religious beliefs and "moral values," but, at the risk of stating the obvious, I'd say that his religious beliefs are often used for calcuated positions, whereas his pro-wealth and business ideals have actually formed the core of his political philosophy.

Really, what has he done for his religious base? A lot less than they thought he would. He threw some money their way with "faith based initiatives," never got them the school vouchers that they wanted, he has cooled on an amendment banning gay marriage, and he still has yet to appoint a conversative Supreme Court justice (He undoubtedly will in the next 4 years, but it remains to be seen if he can really make strides towards overturning Roe v. Wade). The religious posturing seems to be calculated to get people to the polls.

On every policy issue, he has consistently given the wealthy and the powerful everything that they want and more. It could be that he really does not understand poorer Americans--he has never been poor, and had never really even met any poor people before become in President. As reported by Ron Suskind in the New York Times Magazine in October, Bush admits this to evangelical pastor Jim Wallis:

''I've never lived around poor people,'' Wallis remembers Bush saying. ''I don't know what they think. I really don't know what they think. I'm a white Republican guy who doesn't get it. How do I get it?'' Wallis recalls replying, ''You need to listen to the poor and those who live and work with poor people.''
He doesn't understand the needs of the poor (or even middle class). He has lived his life in an isolated, unbelievably weathly world akin to growing up in the British royal family, and as a consequence, all of his policies seem to be driven by fixing the "problems" of his wealthy elite clique. All politics is personal they say.

To understand GWB, you must understand the rules he lives by:

1. The wealthy in America are entitled to keep all of their wealth--This translates into:

  • lower income taxes for the wealthy
  • lower capital gains taxes (the poor rarely have gains to tax)
  • the elimination of inheritance taxes

2. Corportations are entitled to maximize their profits without government regulation:

  • Repealing (or just not enforcing) "pesky" environmental legislation. Even his own former EPA director says so.
  • Supporting companies to outsource labor overseas.
  • Encouraging America to "go shopping" to show our patriotism immediately after 9/11
  • Creating a Medicare benefit that gives billions to pharmaceutical companies, preventing any kind of price controls on perscription drugs, and trying to prevent cheaper drugs from coming in from Canada.
  • "Reforming" Social Security by diverting trillions of dollars into the stock market.
  • Giving businesses one of the biggest tax cuts in history.
  • No bid contracts for Halliburton and other "friendly" companies in Iraq.
  • Encouraging deregulation of power companies, leading to debacles like Enron.
  • Opening up the Alaskan National Wildlife Reserve for oil drilling.

These rules can explain virtually every policy decision he has ever made (including, I think, the war in Iraq).

The funny thing is that while Bush's policies have certainly led to large payouts for certain wealthy people and corporations, he has presided over a disastrous economy, with a lengthy recession and lower than expected economic growth which is likely to continue. In general, corporations fared better during Clinton's tenure. I don't think that the President--any President, can control the economy absoultely, but I think that it's getting harder to believe that the Bush tax cuts were an effective stimulus to the economy, as Dr. Walter Williams of the University of Washington's Daniel J. Evans School of Public Affairs says:

Efficient stimuli would have been concentrated on putting funds in the hands of those who would spend it rapidly. Shapiro and Friedman have noted that Bush spurned the most efficient means, such as extending unemployment insurance benefits that generate 73 cents per dollar of lost revenue. Instead, he unwisely opted for a dividend tax reductions that only generated 9 cents, and hence far greater budget deficits.

I'm not an economist, but it seems that the corporate interests that support Bush are rather short-sighted. Government handouts and de-regulation might be effective ways to boost the bottom line in the short term, but isn't a robust, growing economy the best way to be profitable in the long term?

I find it funny when Bush is portrayed as a bumbling, religious, "man of the people." He grew up as wealthy and priviledged as anyone in America, but somehow, it's not the Yale and Harvard education and millions of dollars in family assets that people focus on--it's his supposed piety and values. Wake up and smell the oil here people, George Bush is much more interested in helping "his people," the wealth and powerful of America, that he is in doing "God's work." He dosen't understand the needs of middle class America, or, especially, the needs of poor Americans. He gets Americans to vote against their own economic interests with calls to partiotism and religion--calls that are disingenuous at best.

Think before you vote in 2006. To take a page out of the Reagan playbook, ask yourself "Are you better off than you were four years ago?" Unless you're a CEO--probably not.

--Tin Foil Out

Thong Statute Update

It seems that the Virginia State Senate shared my opinion on the no-underwear-above-the-belt law passed this week in the Virginia House of Representatives. They UNANIMOUSLY defeated the bill yesterday, with many State Senators calling the bill a "distraction" and an "embarrassment" to Virginia. I'm pleased that sanity was restored. I have to wonder, however, if it would have passed without the overwhelming worldwide ridicule it received.

Ah well, a victory is a victory. No fashion police in Virginia--for now.

-TinFoil Out

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

The Thong Statute

In another news story for the "America is going completely nuts" file. The BBC reported today that the Virginia House of Representatives passed a bill, by the unbelievably large margin of 60-34, that creates $50 fine on anyone who exposes his or her underpants above his or her pants in a—quote -- “lewd or indecent manner.”

. . . I'll let that sink in for a minute.

. . . Ok

So apparently, this is a reaction to low-rider jeans on girls, and the baggy, worn-almost-at-the-knees hip hop jeans for boys.

DEMOCRAT!!!!! Algie T. Howell proposed the bill , saying:

To vote for this bill would be a vote for character, to uplift your community and to do something good not only for the state of Virginia, but for this entire country.

The only redeeming moment of the debate seems to have come from Rep. Howell's fellow Democrat Lionell Spruill who reacted thusly (according to the BBC story) :

He asked fellow politicians to remember their own former fashion faux pas, including Afro haircuts, platform shoes and shiny polyester "shell suits".
He also, correctly I think, pointed out that this bill will unfairly target African-Americans.

Let's hope that the VA state senate is able to prevent this laughing-stock of a state-dress-code bill to be passed into law, but in case they don't, I have a few questions about the bill:

  1. If a woman wears low cut jeans without any underwear, is that a violation under the law?
  2. Conversely, if a man who is exposing baggy boxer shorts above the top of his baggy jeans were to drop his pants as police approached, would he be assessed the fine? (It's technically not "underwear" at that point.)
  3. If one can prove that the underwear one was wearing was meant to be displayed as outerwear (the Tommy Hilfiger/Madonna defense), and that it was displayed that way on several billboards around Virginia, does it no longer qualify as "underwear?"
  4. What if you had 2 pair of underwear on--which one would be considered "underwear" under the statue?
  5. At say--Virginia Beach--would a bikini be a violation of the law? Would it become a violation only after it was covered up by low-rise jeans? Would the "that's not underwear, it's a swimsuit defense (which I believe I saw on an episode of Three's Company once) be valid?
  6. Are we going to see Jay-Z fined by authorities every time he performs in Virginia?
  7. Since the fine is predicated on the exposure of underwear in a "lewd and indecent manner," does the fine only apply to attractive people? Are the overweight plumbers of the world safe from these fines? Not hot?--no fine?
  8. Is this law enforcable? Are the police honestly going to approach an attractive women in low-rise jeans and say, "I'm going to have to fine you $50 for exposing your underwear--and can I have your phone number?" Don't they have criminals to catch?

If you'd like to write to Representative Howell and tell him to stop wasting Virginia tax payers' money with this crap, his email is Del_AHowell@house.state.va.us You might want to remind him that Virginia already has "indecent exposure" laws that are not based on the arbitrary position of one's underwear in relation to one's pants.

--Tin Foil Out