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The New York Times has a story I find incredibly disturbing. According to the story, our beloved alleged president has signed a directive creating a “regulatory policy office” in each of the federal agencies, to be filled a political appointee whose job it will be “to supervise the development of rules and documents providing guidance to regulated industries” — in other words, to make sure that agency actions conform to Republican party dicta. The article continues:

The directive issued by Mr. Bush says that, in deciding whether to issue regulations, federal agencies must identify “the specific market failure” or problem that justifies government intervention.

Besides placing political appointees in charge of rule making, Mr. Bush said agencies must give the White House an opportunity to review “any significant guidance documents” before they are issued.

Simply put, it appears from this story that Duhbya is using a directive to increase his power unilaterally, installing apparatchiks to make sure that any new policies promulgated by federal agencies conform to his wishes, and allowing the White House to quash any guidance documents that it disagrees with. And requiring issuing agencies to identify “specific market failures” as a condition of issuing new regulations clearly subverts the will of Congress expressed through many existing laws relating to regulatory agencies — it may mean requiring time for the market to act, react, and fail to react appropriately before the regulatory agency can intervene. In the meantime, all sorts of things can go very, very wrong.

It will be interesting to see what the political fallout from this directive is.

Of course, I don’t know why I’m so surprised by this. After all, the shrub has already done more to subvert our Constitution than any president in history. What’s one more extraconstitutional action? Just put it on his tab.

jane doe

There is something really wrong in the world when I find myself cheering for Chuck Hagel (R-Nebraska). Yet that is what I find myself doing today. His strong words to his fellow senators on the matter of the proposed Senate Iraq war resolution rebuking the Shrub administration. Crooks and Liars has a clip of Hagel’s comments if you want to see it.

jane doe

…unfortunately, I have a paper due in one of my classes tomorrow morning, so I need to sign off and get to work.

jane doe

Webb mentions New Orleans, which makes me wonder — I can’t remember whether the shrub mentioned rebuilding New Orleans or not.

He’s making some great comments about the economy and the erosion of the middle class. Nice contrast of CEO incomes with incomes of average workers. Nice comment about the shipping of jobs overseas — that is something that really needs to be addressed soon. I had a huge argument recently with a friend who is doing some consulting to help American businesses ship jobs off to India. My friend feels that it’s not really his problem that jobs are going away, he says he’s helping corporations operate more efficiently…I think it’s everyone’s problem. Ultimately, although corporations are considered legal persons, they completely lack many of the characteristics of people you would actually want to know, like a conscience or a concept of duty to the society. Sure, there are corporations that do good things for their community, but ultimately the goal of a corporation is to make money, both in the short term and the long term. If that is their primary raison d’etre, many of their decisions are not going to be in the best interests of the societies in which they operate.

Ah, now we get to the part where he rips Duhbya a new one over the mess in Iraq. Go Jim!

In calling upon the president to move in a new direction to address the problems facing us, he got in a great line: “If he does, we will join him. If he does not, we will be showing him the way.”

IMNSHO, a pretty good rebuttal — though he expressly stated that it was not intended to be a rebuttal.

jane doe

Okay, here, in more or less chronological order, are my thoughts as I listen to the SOTU speech:

Goddam smirking chimp…

…grumble grumble…

Madam Speaker — about f’ing time we got a woman in that position.

And who are the morons whistling, anyway?

Teddy Kennedy looks about to cry. Not entirely sure why. I mean, besides the obvious, of course: that we have to put up with this bastard for two more years.

Don’t get me started on his bit about No Child Left Behind. Increasing funds for children who need help — sure, that’s great. Not sure that NCLB currently does that — it’s never been fully funded, after all. NCLB is a statute with its heart in the right place, but the execution has been abysmal.

And how does he plan to do all the things he claims he is going to do without raising taxes? That is not entirely clear, but if you read between the lines, his approaches aren’t going to really change things.

For instance, talking about helping Americans afford health insurance through tax incentives doesn’t really help the people who are living at the lowest income levels — not coincidentally, the group most likely not to get health insurance through their jobs. After all, their incomes are often so low that their tax bill is low to non-existent, so tax incentives really don’t affect their bottom line enough to allow them to go out and purchase individual insurance coverage (which is generally more expensive than purchasing as part of a group due to the tendency of people to self-select — that is, to forego insurance if they believe they are not likely to need it, and purchase it if they view themselves as more likely to incur significant health care costs).

As another example, consider this translation: when he says he is going to ask the states to “use existing funds” to pay for something, that means he’s not going to allocate any additional money, just ask the states to do more with the money that they’ve already got — money which most states will tell you already is insufficient for their needs.

“For too long our nation has been dependent on foreign oil.” Hasn’t he said this every single year? And yet we are even more dependent on foreign oil than we used to be. Ooh, but he’s final admitted that “global climate change” is a real issue — still didn’t say “global warming”, but I’ll accept climate change if he actually agrees to do anything. Some nice talk about energy, too — let’s see if he follows through with meaningful changes in the coming months.

And here comes the talk about Iran. (shudder, wordless cry of horror)

Condi Rice was just on camera — she looks like she’s on Thorazine.

Okay he just mentioned the word victory in connection with Iraq, which got a standing ovation from parts of the chamber in spite of being laughable in light of current events, though the camera angles are making it hard to see exactly who was applauding and who wasn’t. Plus, your humble correspondent was typing when he was saying this, and missed some of the details on camera.

Blah blah blah…rehash of his Iraq speech from two weeks ago…Biden looks like he’s trying to work on a sudoku puzzle…Ooh, when the camera pulls back, you can sure tell where the Republicans are sitting, can’t you? They’re the ones standing up for Bush’s Iraq plan. Once he switches to supporting the troops, of course, everyone stands up.

Okay, he’s asking for Congress to authorize an increase in the size of the armed forces — but how that’s going to happen when the military currently can’t meet its recruiting targets is a mystery to me.

And what is this whole thing about a civilian force that can be sent into other parts of the world during times of conflict? WTF? You mean, like Halliburton and Blackwater? I have to go back and listen to that over again, because that didn’t make any sense at all.

Dick Cheney looks like he is glaring at someone off over to the left of the alleged president. At least Pelosi looks like she is listening to Duhbya.

Damn, Dikembe Mutombo is tall.

Okay, that’s about it for initial comments on the speech. Webb’s speech is in a couple of minutes.

jane doe

The following headline appears in today’s NYT:

Bush’s Plan for Iraq Runs into Opposition

Clearly, the understatement of the day, and possibly of the decade.

jane doe

Olbermann did another one of his special comments tonight, this one a response to Bush’s speech from last night. His special comments have been uniformly good, and tonight’s was no exception. A few excerpts, painstakingly transcribed by your humble blogger:

  • “Only this president, only in this time, only with this dangerous, even messianic certitude could answer a country demanding an exit strategy from Iraq by offering instead an entrance strategy for Iran.”
  • “This is diplomacy by skimming. It is internationalism by drawing pictures of Superman in the margins of the textbooks. It is a presidency of Cliff Notes.”
  • “Who is left to go and fight, sir? Who are you going to send to interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria? Laura and Barney?”
  • “You speak of mistakes, and of the responsibility resting with you. But you do not admit to making those mistakes, and you offer us nothing to justify this clenched fist towards Iran and Syria.”

And then there was one that summed up my feelings nicely:

  • “You, sir, have become the President who cried wolf. All that you say about Iraq now could be gospel. All that you say about Iran and Syria now could be prescient and essential. We no longer have a clue, sir. We have heard too many stories.”

Thank you for saying these things, Mr. Olbermann. Please keep doing your special comments.

jane doe

P.S. to my nonexistent readers — I don’t have the technological capability (or the bandwidth) to post a clip of the special comment, or I would. But Crooks and Liars always seems to post them, so you might check there if you want to hear it in its entirety.

I’ve been listening to reactions to the speech off and on all day, and my emotions are all over the place:

  • I am very pleased to see members of congress from both parties speaking out so strongly against the president’s plan. It is a very rare day when I agree with Senator Hagel of Nebraska, but I think he hit the nail on the head when he called the president’s speech, “the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam, if it’s carried out.” (Crooks & Liars has the clip here.)
  • I am greatly disturbed by the president’s apparent unwillingness to listen to all the voices that are screaming against the idea of a troop surge in Iraq.
  • I am worried about everyone in the military — I can only imagine how they must be feeling after that speech.
  • I am terrified of all the talk about a possible new war with Iran. What the hell is Bush thinking? And, by the way, who does he think is going to fight in this new war? The military is stretched as far as it can be, at this point.

The president has lost all credibility, all support, all sanity. Someone needs to do an intervention on him — just march into the Oval Office, shove aside all the people who are insulating the president against reality, and knock him upside the head, and say, “Listen, you have to stop all this! These are some really bad ideas you’re getting, and people are dying as a result!”

jane doe

…and sadly, nothing that sounded really new. It looks like we are facing another troop escalation — which, of course, the MSM has been saying for days now. Yeah, okay, he kindasorta admitted to making mistakes — well, accepted responsibility for mistakes that were made, which isn’t quite the same thing, but I don’t want to get into a parsing contest with anyone. Other than that, it seemed to be more of the same,  plus a warning that we can expect to see more casualties, with the implication that we’d better just get used to it.

jane doe

…or was Bush’s reference to Iran and nuclear — sorry, nucular — weapons really, really ominous-sounding?

jane doe

Okay, I’m still digesting the speech, but I have to say that Chris Matthews on MSNBC gave a great introduction the feed of the president’s speech: “…but here he is, the only commander-in-chief we have, the President of the United States, George W. Bush.” The way he said it, just managing to keep from sighing in despair, spoke volumes. If I had the technological capability, I would post a clip of just the intro.

jane doe

Watching Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews go back and forth during the run-up to the big speech, now. I think the word catastrophe has been uttered about a half dozen times during the last half hour, but I like the word Jon Stewart coined for it better.

Pelosi, Reid, and a few other highly-ranked Democratic members of the House and Senate just spoke to the press after meeting with the alleged president about his plans for Iraq. They looked grim. They are justifiably frustrated that Bush has waited until today (when the plans have already been made and this evening’s speech is probably already in final draft form) to “consult” with them. I use the scare quotes quite deliberately there, because true consultation involves actually listening to what others are saying and incorporating their suggestions into the final plans, not going into a meeting with one’s mind made up and attempting to persuade others to one’s view.

Interestingly, even the Republican congressional leaders who spoke with the press looked grim after hearing from Dubya. This does not bode well for the rest of us, and most particularly does not bode well for the men and women in our armed forces. This is going to be an interesting speech tonight.

jane doe

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January 2007
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