Monday, May 19, 2008

Catching Up: Best of 2005: January & February

Here's another installment in the continuing effort to distill the best postings from my personal mailing list. These are from January and February 2005. It was a big time for attacks on President Bush and his policies. I thought about editing them out more aggressively, but for future reference I decided to hold onto these reminders of the political climate of that time. * * * * * Why You Should Have Boycotted the 2004 Presidential Election Excerpt from S. Templeman & L. Mitchell, "Challenging the One-Size- Fits-All Myth: Findings and Solutions from a Statewide Focus Group of Rural Social Workers," Child Welfare, September/October 2002, pp. 757-772 (at p. 761, citations omitted): "A study by the Children's Rights Council [in 2000] ranked Texas 48th among states for raising children, down from 25th in 1995. The status of children in Texas lags far behind that in most other states. This places rural children in Texas among those Americans at greatest risk on numerous indicators of well-being. For example . . . Texas ranks 41st in the percentage of children in poverty and 50th in the number of children without health insurance. It also ranks 44th in the percentage of babies born to mothers who received early prenatal care and 48th in childhood immunizations for 2-year-olds. Texas is among the 10 worst states in the United States on most factors related to teen pregnancy. CDF found the teen birthrate among Texans to be 70.9 per 1,000; the national rate is 51.1" These may sound like reasons to have voted against George Bush in 2000, not to mention 2004. But since a majority did not do that, at least in 2004, the question arises whether the majority does not care about these indicators of child maltreatment in the state that George Bush governed. I think the majority does care. But I did not notice that these issues were front and center during the election. The process is broken. Instead of focusing upon the outcomes for hundreds of thousands (and in some instances millions) of Americans, the election process, for some years, has been fixated upon such questions as whether George Bush is smart, whether John Kerry flip- flops, whether Bill Clinton is a sleaze, whether Ronald Reagan was senile. Until we can have perfect candidates, these personal attacks are worse than useless. They are a positive distraction from what counts. And that is what our elections are all about now. They are a joke -- and so, in too many instances, is the person who becomes president. We can't expect to fix the process without acknowledging that it is broken. When we talk and act as though voting is a good thing, we endorse the process as it is. And that is, increasingly, a mistake. [The situation appears quite different, so far, in the 2008 campaign.] * * * * * Late-Night Political News from "So the president doesn't read the papers. The only real information he gets he gets from his loyal aides and even when he goes to a town hall meeting, to meet the people, they have been pre-selected. Our president is living in the 'Truman Show'. Nothing happens around him that isn't planned. I don't even think he knows we're out here watching." --Jon Stewart "Did you hear about this? The U.S. is sending a top secret reconnaissance team into Iran. How secret can it be if a dumb ass like me knows about it?" --David Letterman "Some groups are calling on people to fast and pray on the day of Bush's inauguration to protest the re-election. That's not going to work. The people who fast and pray are the ones who voted him in. That's his audience." --Jay Leno "News from Washington -- Condoleezza Rice ... says there are no plans to invade North Korea, which can only mean one thing -- they don't have any oil." --Craig Ferguson "Traditionally the president's inaugural committee pays for these expenses; this time around it's stiffing the District of Columbia with a 12 million dollar security bill -- just their way of saying 'thank you' to the community that went nine-to-one for the president's opponent." --Jon Stewart "In an interview in USA Today, President Bush said he is not wasting any more money on programs that are not working. Well that's good news. I guess the war in Iraq is over." --Jay Leno "You know there was a bounty on Osama bin Laden -- $25 million and they have now doubled it. $50 million is the bounty on Osama bin Laden. And it makes sense because if you're a goat farmer in Tora Bora, $25 million just isn't going to get your attention." -David Letterman "How about this for a mystery? Over in Iraq, United States authorities have admitted that $9 billion is missing. They have misplaced $9 billion in Iraq. Wow. I am fairly confident they'll find it though. It's probably somewhere with the weapons of mass destruction." -David Letterman "President Bush said today he wants another $80 billion in Iraq funding. So when he said Iraq isn't free yet, he ain't kidding." -- Jay Leno "The president announced today new budget slashes. And he's slashing education. It is a genius plan -- when the kids graduate they won't have the math skills to calculate how much debt they're actually in." --Craig Ferguson "Former baseball star Jose Canseco has a new book out. It's a tell-all autobiography in which he claims he injected his former teammate - - superstar Mark McGwire -- with steroids. He also claims that President Bush, who was then a co-owner of the Texas Rangers, was aware of steroid use among players. A White House spokesperson says Bush was not aware of it -- nor was he aware of most anything during the early '90s. Mark McGwire vehemently denies the accusation - he got so angry when he heard about it, he picked up his house and threw it onto the freeway." --Jimmy Kimmel "As you know President Bush has been traveling around the country trying to sell his new Social Security plan. He wants to take our retirement money and invest it in the stock market. He says nothing can go wrong. I'll mention that to Martha Stewart the next time I see her." --Jay Leno "Today they announced the big winner of the Iraqi election -- Halliburton." --Jay Leno "Attorney General Alberto Gonzales started his first week on the job. Remember those two naked statues that John Ashcroft had covered up when he took the job? Well, they're naked again, but now they just have leashes around their necks." --Jay Leno "Everybody was commenting that Stephen Breyer was the only Supreme Court justice at the State of the Union. But it turns out that is not true. It turns out Justice Scalia was there. He was in Dick Cheney's pocket." --Jay Leno "In his State of the Union Address, President Bush announced a new initiative to keep young people out of gangs, a new program called Do Right And Follow Through (D.R.A.F.T.)." --Tina Fey, Saturday Night Live's "Weekend Update" "A Marine general who served in Iraq is in trouble this week for saying said it is fun to shoot people. Thanks to his remarks he now has now received a job at the LAPD." --Craig Ferguson "According to a new poll, Democrats are favoring Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nominee for 2008. Democrats say they are looking for a fresh and exciting new way to get their asses handed to them." --Tina Fey "Bush's new budget proposals cut $1.1 billion from the federal food stamp program. I guess the president feels if rich people aren't going to get their full tax cut for a while, the poor people with food stamps should have to help out too." --Jay Leno "The U.S. Postal Service issued a new stamp of Ronald Reagan today. I can't wait for the George W. Bush stamp. That's when your letter goes to Iraq for no reason and the stamp can't explain why." --Craig Ferguson "Right now President Bush is in Europe, he's in Germany, and he stopped in Frankfurt and he got off the plane and he electrified the crowd with 'Ich bin ein Frankfurter.'" --David Letterman "President Bush had dinner last night with the French President Jacques Chirac and in one, kind of awkward moment, President Chirac gave Bush a souvenir statue of the Eiffel Tower and Bush said 'Oh this is great a little oil rig! I love it!'" --Jay Leno "President Bush said when he goes to Europe, he's looking forward to talking about how we can extend peace even further around the world. Then the Pentagon told him, 'You know, Mr. President, we really don't have enough ammunition left to do that.'" --Jay Leno "In a speech today President Bush said contrary to reports, he has no plans to attack Iran. The president said 'That's ridiculous. We didn't even have plans when we attacked Iraq.'" --Conan O'Brien "It seems a friend of the Bush family, Doug Wead -- I think he's Linda Tripp's first husband if I'm not mistaken -- secretly taped a number of conversations. Bush admitted as a young man he smoked marijuana but he quit when it interfered with his drinking. ... Although he acknowledged trying marijuana, no one has come forward to verify they've actually seen him do marijuana, so it's like the National Guard thing all over again." --Jay Leno "Jeff Gannon ... He is a White House correspondent who has been lobbing softball questions at the president and his press secretary, turns out he is actually a paid escort for wealthy homosexuals. ... He actually had two jobs -- one obviously was sleazy and shameful and the other was a gay male prostitute. ... I think I know what Bush meant now when he said he has a mandate." --Bill Maher "Amid this stuff with Jeff Gannon what is our new Attorney General Alberto Gonzales doing as his first act of office -- going after the porn industry. ... Apparently this is the guy who is pro-torture but anti-porn. You can put somebody on a leash and wag wieners in his face but don't film it." --Bill Maher "The Bush administration is proposing a change in the social security system. They want to cut benefits in nearly a third in the next twenty or thirty years. The new program is called 'good luck grandma you're on your own.' You've fallen and you can get up." -Jay Leno "Here in New York, thousands of people partied in funny hats and popped balloons in Times Square. Those who were there said it was just like the Republican Convention, but with black people." --Conan O'Brien "As you know, Time magazine has named President Bush 'Person of the Year' -- quite an honor. Although I'm not sure Bush understands it. Like he said today, he can't decide if he wants the free travel alarm clock or the tote bag." --Jay Leno "The international space station is running low on food. They asked Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld about this. And Rumsfeld said, you go to space with the food you've got, not the food you want." -- David Letterman "President Bush said that he is standing by Rumsfeld. And you know what that means, he'll be gone in a week." --David Letterman "A lot of Americans are worried now. They say they can't rely on Social Security anymore. And you know something, they're right. If you want the government to pay for your housing and your food and your medical bills until your 80 or 90 years old you're just going to have to kill somebody and go live on death row because that's the only way it's going to happen." --Jay Leno * * * * * Top 50 Bushisms (abridged) 48. "You teach a child to read, and he or her will be able to pass a literacy test.'' -Townsend, Tenn., Feb. 21, 2001 44. "I'm the commander - see, I don't need to explain - I do not need to explain why I say things. That's the interesting thing about being president." -as quoted in Bob Woodward's Bush at War 42. "The war on terror involves Saddam Hussein because of the nature of Saddam Hussein, the history of Saddam Hussein, and his willingness to terrorize himself." -Grand Rapids, Mich., Jan. 29, 2003 40. "Oh, no, we're not going to have any casualties." -discussing the Iraq war with Christian Coalition founder Pat Robertson, as quoted by Robertson 38. "Haven't we already given money to rich people? Why are we going to do it again?" -to economic advisers discussing a second round of tax cuts, as quoted by former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neil, Washington, D.C., Nov. 26, 2002 37. "We need an energy bill that encourages consumption." -Trenton, N.J., Sept. 23, 2002 35. "Do you have blacks, too?" -to Brazilian President Fernando Cardoso, Washington, D.C., Nov. 8, 2001 32. "It is white." -after being asked by a child in Britain what the White House was like, July 19, 2001 31. "I couldn't imagine somebody like Osama bin Laden understanding the joy of Hanukkah." -at a White House menorah lighting ceremony, Washington, D.C., Dec. 10, 2001 27. "I'm the master of low expectations." -aboard Air Force One, June 4, 2003 26. "I'm also not very analytical. You know I don't spend a lot of time thinking about myself, about why I do things." -aboard Air Force One, June 4, 2003 25. "I know what I believe. I will continue to articulate what I believe and what I believe - I believe what I believe is right." - Rome, Italy, July 22, 2001 21. "The really rich people figure out how to dodge taxes anyway." - explaining why high taxes on the rich are a failed strategy, Annandale, Va., Aug. 9, 2004 20. "My plan reduces the national debt, and fast. So fast, in fact, that economists worry that we're going to run out of debt to retire." -radio address, Feb. 24, 2001 18. "See, free nations are peaceful nations. Free nations don't attack each other. Free nations don't develop weapons of mass destruction." -Milwaukee, Wis., Oct. 3, 2003 11. "Can we win? I don't think you can win it." -after being asked whether the war on terror was winnable, "Today" show interview, Aug. 30, 2004 9. "I trust God speaks through me. Without that, I couldn't do my job." -to a group of Amish he met with privately, July 9, 2004 8. "Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed." -speaking underneath a "Mission Accomplished" banner aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln, May 1, 2003 7. "We found the weapons of mass destruction. We found biological laboratories … And we'll find more weapons as time goes on. But for those who say we haven't found the banned manufacturing devices or banned weapons, they're wrong, we found them." -Washington, D.C., May 30, 2003 4. "There's an old saying in Tennessee - I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee - that says, fool me once, shame on - shame on you. Fool me - you can't get fooled again." -Nashville, Tenn., Sept. 17, 2002 3. "Too many good docs are getting out of the business. Too many OB- GYNs aren't able to practice their love with women all across this country." -Poplar Bluff, Mo., Sept. 6, 2004 2. "Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we." -Washington, D.C., Aug. 5, 2004 1. "My answer is bring them on." -on Iraqi insurgents attacking U.S. forces, Washington, D.C., July 3, 2003 * * * * * Bird Brains In a laboratory, when a crow named Betty was given metal wires of various lengths and a four-inch vertical pipe with food at the bottom, she chose a four-inch wire, made a hook and retrieved the food. ... Clark nutcrackers can hide up to 30,000 seeds and recover them up to six months later. Nutcrackers also hide and steal. If they see another bird watching them as they cache food, they return later, alone, to hide the food again. Some scientists believe this shows a rudimentary theory of mind - understanding that another bird has intentions and beliefs. Magpies, at an earlier age than any other creature tested, develop an understanding of the fact that when an object disappears behind a curtain, it has not vanished. At a university campus in Japan, carrion crows line up patiently at the curb waiting for a traffic light to turn red. When cars stop, they hop into the crosswalk, place walnuts from nearby trees onto the road and hop back to the curb. After the light changes and cars run over the nuts, the crows wait until it is safe and hop back out for the food. Pigeons can memorize up to 725 different visual patterns, and are capable of what looks like deception. Pigeons will pretend to have found a food source, lead other birds to it and then sneak back to the true source. Parrots, some researchers report, can converse with humans, invent syntax and teach other parrots what they know. Researchers have claimed that Alex, an African gray, can grasp important aspects of number, color concepts, the difference between presence and absence, and physical properties of objects like their shapes and materials. He can sound out letters the same way a child does. * * * * * Funny Definitions Rectitude (n.), the formal, dignified bearing adopted by proctologists. Pokemon (n), a Rastafarian proctologist. Oyster (n.), a person who sprinkles his conversation with Yiddishisms. Circumvent (n.), an opening in the front of boxer shorts worn by Jewish men. Take a word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing one letter, and supply a new definition. Bozone (n.): The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future. Cashtration (n.): The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period. Giraffiti (n): Vandalism spray-painted very, very high. Sarchasm (n): The gulf between the author of wit and the person who doesn't get it. Inoculatte (v): To take coffee intravenously when you are running late. Hipatitis (n): Terminal coolness. Osteopornosis (n): A degenerate disease. Decafalon (n.): The grueling event of getting through the day consuming only things that are good for you. Dopeler effect (n): The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly. Arachnoleptic fit (n.): The frantic dance performed just after you've accidentally walked through a spider web. Beelzebug (n.): Satan in the form of a mosquito that gets into your bedroom at three in the morning and cannot be cast out. Caterpallor (n.): The color you turn after finding half a grub in the fruit you're eating. Ignoranus (n): A person who's both stupid and an asshole.