S.M.B. - Logic and Rhetoric
Saturday, June 07, 2003

Check it out...


Then there is the news that, in an effort to ensure the passage of its cherished tax-cut plan, the Bush administration buried a highly damaging study -- commissioned by its own Treasury department -- that found that it would take either the permanent elimination of all future federal discretionary spending or an immediate and permanent tax hike of 66 percent to cover the upcoming retirement and healthcare needs of aging baby boomers. You think that bombshell might have put a little damper on Bush's tax cut orgy?

This is exactly the kind of skullduggery corrupt corporations used to conceal potentially disastrous news from investors -- like Adelphia hiding its $3.1 billion loans to the Rigas family in tiny footnotes in an earnings filing.

Like many disgraced companies, the White House has proven adept at playing fast and loose with the numbers in order to mislead its "shareholders" -- the American people.

Take the administration's shifty use of "averages" to make it seem like the new tax cut benefits everyone -- claiming that "91 million taxpayers will receive, on average, a tax cut of $1,226," when, in fact, the majority of households will receive a tax cut of $100 or less.


"We may congratulate ourselves that this cruel war is nearing its end.
It has cost a vast amount of treasure and blood. . . .
It has indeed been a trying hour for the Republic; but
I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes
me to tremble for the safety of my country. As a result of the war,
corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places
will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong
its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth
is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed.
I feel at this moment more anxiety for the safety
of my country than ever before, even in the midst of war.
God grant that my suspicions may prove groundless."

The passage appears in a letter from Lincoln to (Col.) William F. Elkins, Nov. 21, 1864.


NORFOLK, VA—With more than 5,400 jubilant Marines and sailors cheering him on, President Bush landed on the deck of the U.S.S. Harry S Truman in a Navy jet Monday to preside over a historic veterans'-benefits-cutting ceremony.

After congratulating the soldiers on their victory over Saddam Hussein, Bush announced that the new budget passed by the Senate includes a $14.6 billion reduction in veterans' benefits.

He then held aloft a pair of oversized scissors and snipped a ribbon bearing the words "Veteran's Benefits."

"No one knows the meaning of the word 'sacrifice' quite like our men and women in uniform," Bush said. "Whether sacrificing their lives or their health coverage, these brave Americans are willing to do whatever it takes to help this nation, and for this I salute them."

"When I look at the members of the United States military, I see the best of our country, and I am honored to be your Commander-In-Chief," Bush said.

"I am equally honored that you are stoically accepting Congress' elimination of a large percentage of the benefits you were promised upon enlisting so that I can finance a massive tax cut."

Bush said, "You have exhibited a willingness to do what your country has asked of you. In return, I would like to personally show my gratitude by guaranteeing that your pension will not completely dry up until you turn 40."

Bush explained that the cuts were necessary to ensure that the servicemen who received aid were those who really needed it and not the parasites looking to take advantage of a bloated bureaucracy and veterans' welfare state.


According to The New Republic, Senator Zell Miller — one of a dwindling band of Democrats who still think they can make deals with the Bush administration and its allies — got shafted in the recent tax bill.

He supported the bill in part because it contained his personal contribution: a measure requiring chief executives to take personal responsibility for corporate tax declarations. But when the bill emerged from conference, his measure had been stripped out.

Will "moderates" — the people formerly known as "conservatives" — ever learn? Today's "conservatives" — the people formerly known as the "radical right" — don't think of a deal as a deal; they think of it as an opportunity to pull yet another bait and switch.

Most media attention has focused on the child tax credit that wasn't. As in 2001, the administration softened the profile of a tax cut mainly aimed at the wealthy by including a credit for families with children. But at the last minute, a change in wording deprived 12 million children of some or all of that tax credit.

"There are a lot of things that are more important than that," declared Tom DeLay, the House majority leader. (Maybe he was thinking of the "Hummer deduction," which stayed in the bill: business owners may now deduct up to $100,000 for the cost of a vehicle, as long as it weighs at least 6,000 pounds.

Glenn Hubbard, the former chairman of the president's Council of Economic Advisers and the author of the original plan, delicately puts it, "It's hard to get a lot of progressivity at the top."

Translation: wealthy individuals who get most of their income from dividends and capital gains will often end up paying lower tax rates than ordinary Americans who work for a living.

Second, the tax cut — originally billed as a way to reduce abuses — may well usher in a golden age of tax evasion. We can be sure that lawyers and accountants are already figuring out how to disguise income that should be taxed at a 35 percent rate as dividends that are taxed at only 15 percent.

Grover Norquist, the right-wing ideologue who has become one of the most powerful men in Washington, once declared: "I don't want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub." Mr. Bush has made a pretty good start on that plan.

Which brings us back to Senator Miller, and all those politicians and pundits who still imagine that there is room for compromise, that they can find some bipartisan middle ground. Mr. Norquist was recently quoted in The Denver Post with the answer to that: "Bipartisanship is another name for date rape."


Friday, June 06, 2003


I couldn't make this up! Habitat for Humanity is doing it...

It will be the world's newest slum, built to order, and it will be based on some of the planet's worst in Africa, Asia and Central America.

But the model shanty town, sprawling over 6.5 acres (2.6ha), is not being built to accommodate the poorest of the poor; it is intended to educate the richest of the rich.

The latest US theme park, opening in Georgia this week, will give many Americans an unprecedented insight into how "the other half" lives.

The park has been created by Habitat for Humanity, a non-profit group that builds low-cost housing, at its headquarters in Americus. Millard Fuller, its founder, expects the Global Village and Discovery Centre to attract up to 70,000 tourists in its first year.


NEW YORK - Verizon Communications Inc. reluctantly surrendered to the music industry on Thursday the names of four Internet subscribers suspected of illegally offering free song downloads, but vowed to keep fighting the law that forced its hand.

Verizon was compelled to give up the names Wednesday by the U.S. Court of Appeals for Washington, D.C., which rejected the telecom giant's request for a stay while it appeals a lower court decision won by the Recording Industry Association of America.


Bush economy is helping the wealthy folks, the stock holders, and is just helping middle class people lose their jobs.

Wednesday, June 04, 2003


This is a truly great column that I generally agree with, despite the fact that it deals with a very touchy topic, especially within the black community.

...As the '90s wore on, and MTV noticed the big dollars generated by gangsta rappers and their associates, the mirror began to crack. Ice Cube faded into Mack 10, Biggie was replaced by the LOX, and Nas gave way to Nastradamus. As the music became more popular, it became more of a cartoon—eventually, the only cartoon in town. Despite an occasional hit by the Roots or Talib Kweli, the popular face of rap has been defined by acts in the mold of Biggie or Tupac, but with less talent and almost no perspective...

Over the past two decades, black America made impressive gains in the job and education sector—or anyway, half of black America did. In a study of young, "less educated" African Americans with only a high school diploma, Holzer and his partner Paul Offner discovered that the employment rate for women rose from 37 percent in 1989 to 52 percent in 2000. The rate actually fell for men, from 62 percent to 52 percent. According to Holzer, in the 16-24 age range there is actually a higher percentage of black women employed than black men—a stunning statistic, given that many black women in this demographic are also unwed mothers...

A true narrative of "the streets" and the black men who inhabit them would depict a deadbeat ex-con, fleeing mounting child support, unable to find work, and disconnected from the lives of his kids. It would chronicle his gradual slide off the American radar even as his mother, daughter, and girlfriend (not wife) make inroads. It's a story that doesn't lend itself to romance. More importantly, it doesn't fit the image of black men in the American imagination.

White America has always had a perverse fascination with the idea of black males as violent and sexually insatiable animals. A prime source of racism's emotional energy was an obsession with protecting white women from black brutes. Since the days of Birth of a Nation up through Native Son and now with gangsta rap, whites have always been loyal patrons of such imagery, drawn to the visceral fear factor and antisocial fantasies generated by black men. Less appreciated is the extent to which African Americans have bought into this idea. At least since the era of blaxploitation, the African American male has taken pride in his depiction as the quintessential man in the black hat. It is a desperate gambit by a group deprived of real power—even on our worst days, we can still scare the shit of white suburbanites.

"These are corporate-made images," says Kelley. "It's not that the image is new, it's an image that always sold, this idea of a dominant black man—they are violent, they are out of control. But we've established that a lot of these narratives are just made up from Italian gangster movies."...

What they do instead is live out an overblown stereotype. That such an image has little resemblance to reality is irrelevant. The image of black men that sells to the rest of America wasn't mapped out by Biggie Smalls, but Bigger Thomas.


Not that I learned anything new in this article, its just that I'm surprised that somebody in the administration conceded this...


Tom DeLay actually says:

WASHINGTON -- The House Republican leader, Tom DeLay, said Tuesday that the House would not consider a Democratic measure to provide an increased tax credit to 6.5 million low-income families who did not receive it in the new tax law.

DeLay, R-Sugar Land, said the increased tax credits would be approved only if they were part of a much broader tax-cut package, possibly including permanent repeal of the estate tax or making state sales taxes deductible. A package of that size would require 60 votes to pass in the Senate, and Democratic opposition to big new tax cuts would make such passage almost impossible.

Priorities, priorities, priorities...



Tuesday, June 03, 2003

A reader writes:

You are insane. Bush lied about the Iraqi WMD program. He stood up there and said they had an active program, and they didn't. He's offered no credible explanation. That's called "lying". The man is a liar. How can you stand by him?

This is typical of the mindset of many, if not all, critics of the President. Few appreciate the complexities and intricacies of the President's arguments for war, which are like a many-faceted gemstone made of flawless, glass-scratching logic. Bush gave many interlocking reasons for going to war: some were true, and others were lies. But if some of the things he said were true, that means he told the truth. People who tell the truth cannot be called "liars"; any argument to the contrary is purest sophism. So if Bush is not a liar - which we have just proven - then he must have been telling the truth, which means there are WMD in Iraq. The suggestion that he lied is thereby shown to be patently absurd, and illustrates yet again the warped mentality of modern liberalism. And if he did lie, it's probably just because he was hurt and confused by how much Dick Gephardt hates America.


A reader writes:

Here's what I don't get: Clinton lied about a blow job, and you screamed that the only way to repair the damage to the Presidency was to impeach him. Now when Bush and Cheney lie about how Saddam is an imminent threat to the US and get this country into a war under false pretenses, you bend over backwards to make excuses. Isn't the second lie far more damaging to American credibility, to say nothing of American lives, than the first?

This is typical of the way Bush critics mix apples and oranges to distort the truth. The case for war with Iraq was a delicate, elegant, and yet profoundly robust construct of fine interlocking gears of pure thought. What people fail to understand is that statements made in a busy work case about oral sex are bound by a sacred oath, while statements made to God and everybody about how we're all signing our own death warrant if we don't invade Iraq right now are only ethically required to be true if you don't have your fingers crossed. The Democrats never called the No Crossies rule, so it's their own fault. Obviously, the President and senior administration officials had their fingers crossed when they said these things, but most liberals are too dumb to understand that. Or else Hillary ate the WMD. I heard she's gay.


The only evidence we need to know that the administration is simply in CYA mode is the fact they don't seem very concerned about the "missing" WMD. If they really believed they existed, the hunt for them wouldn't be motivated by a desire to justify the war, it would be motivated by the very legitimate desire to make sure the deadly weapons were not in the hands of evil-doers. Since the administration isn't sounding the alarm along these lines, it's obvious they're unconcerned. They just want to find some scrap of something - a la the ridiculous mobile "labs" - to pacify the media and dupe the public.

If there were WMDs, and we can't find them, then we have problems.


It's about time, Avery Fisher Hall's acoustics are simply lacking, not suffiecient for such a talented body of musicians in my opinion...

When Lincoln Center first began mapping its renovation a few years ago, its ambitious objectives — and an initial price tag of $1.5 billion — seemed to guarantee that its resident artistic organizations would all be staying put. Even the New York City Opera, long unhappy at the New York State Theater, was talking about building a new hall on campus. But the Metropolitan Opera opposed the idea of a new theater for City Opera, and ever since 9/11 the campuswide renovation has been steadily scaled back. Now the New York Philharmonic, one of the original occupants of Lincoln Center, intends to move to Carnegie Hall as soon as scheduling commitments allow, perhaps as soon as the 2006-2007 season.


Even as George Bush stunned reporters by declaring that we have "found the weapons of mass destruction," the Republican National Committee declared that the latest tax cut benefits "everyone who pays taxes." That is simply a lie. You've heard about those eight million children denied any tax break by a last-minute switcheroo. In total, 50 million American households — including a majority of those with members over 65 — get nothing; another 20 million receive less than $100 each. And a great majority of those left behind do pay taxes.


The decision is among the most far-reaching deregulatory steps taken during the Bush administration. It will permit a company to own up to three television stations, eight radio stations, a daily newspaper and a cable operator in the largest cities. It will also permit the television networks to buy more stations.

The agency's chairman, Michael K. Powell, who was the architect of the changes, said in a telephone interview this afternoon that court challenges were inevitable, both from critics who say the agency went too far and from some companies, like the television networks, which wanted the commission to go further. Huge commercial interests are at play in the rules, and some analysts expect a robust trade in media properties to be fueled by the changes.

Chicken Little Powell actually believes that if the FCC doesn't kill the rules then the courts will?! That makes no sense. Such a premise for relaxing rules doesn't even try to address whether the rules are good for the country and for Americans... Media Monopoly on the way...

Monday, June 02, 2003

Mr. Drake,

Like I said yesterday, I am well, yet a little apprehensive about finding a good job or internship; although I'm confident things will work out. I hope your family is well, especially Dr. Drake.

I must admit that I've never been inclined to trust the Bush Administration; I've always felt that they, as conservatives, are hostile to almost everything I believe in. Although, I'm not so hostile to it now, I was against the Iraq conflict because I knew that regime change in Iraq had long been a part of the Neo-conservatives' agenda. In 1998 they sent an open letter to President Clinton encouraging that he remove the regime, the letter was signed by Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Don Rumsfeld and Richard Perle among others; I believed that they were using the war on terror as an opportunity to achieve part of their agenda.

The other thing that troubled me about the drive up to war were the constant lies and exaggerations, which have been well documented in the nation's newspapers, as well as by foreign newspapers especially the Guardian. I wondered, as I told you, if this administration truly believes that regime change in Iraq will enhance our security in the U.S.A., then why are they lying so much in making their case?

I was extraordinarily upset by France's posturing and nonsense. They essentially argued that they could see no circumstance under which using force against Iraq would be necessary; such a stance lacks integrity, and I believe it caused many European nations to believe that the United States cared more about their (potential) safety than France did; of course such statements were made in diplomatic language, especially by the Polish, Italian and Spanish Governments.

On these last tax cuts... I'm very upset by the tone of the political rhetoric in this country. I think that President Bush believes the biggest problem facing our country is that the wealthy don't have enough money and the middle class doesn't pay enough taxes. One of the consequences of cutting taxes and not collecting taxes from corporations and letting them use tax shelters and not taxing capital gains, dividends and inheritances is that municipal, county and state taxes swell. Here in New York all sorts of fares, tolls and property taxes have been raised. There is a flat tax on cigarettes, the flat sales tax has just been raised, consumption taxes are rising, and state programs are harder to run.

In New York, trade unions have a lot of power and are resisting every effort to make any concessions, and I am particularly upset about the conduct of the teacher's union, who took handouts from our Republican governor (George Pataki) AFTER he praised a ruling by a judge who said that an 8th grade education was sufficient for the kids of New York; they endorsed Pataki in his reelection campaign, rather than endorse a democratic candidate who had been the president of the NYC Board of Ed, and now that their ranks and money have swelled, they are resisting every attempt by the Mayor of New York City to reform the City's terrible education system.

I think there are too many old people in politics Mr. Drake, and by old, I don't simply mean it in reference to age. There are too many people who are resigned to the current reality. I would be impressed by a candidate who seems to be truly appalled by injustice, someone who has an impulse to right the wrongs of American society. I'm very disheartened by the conventional wisdom that a Howard Dean, an Al Sharpton or a Dennis Kucinich cannot become president; the notion that any candidate is entitled to a vote is ridiculous and that notion is the biggest flaw of the American system. Our political culture says (implicitly) that an incumbent is entitled to a vote until he commits murder, this is especially true for Congress.

I think that the best Presidential candidate will be clear about where he stands on issues, and will not be afraid to call BUSH's policies class warfare; the conservatives often refer to liberal rhetoric concerning "tax cuts for the rich" class warfare. In my opinion, a strong candidate will make the distinctions between liberal rhetoric and conservative actions.

In any event, I have probably gone on writing for too long and will give my mind some rest now. I hope everything is well with you, and I wish you and Dr. Drake the best.

Very truly yours,


Powered by Blogger