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Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

Chickens, Roost – You Know the Drill

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Apparently it’s finally dawning on Republicans that redistricting to win seats has its limitations. There comes a point when even your supporters have had enough destruction and death.

Their problems are threefold and intertwined. First, the GOP has become effectively agenda-less, advocating policies that lack popular support, and that they quite possibly couldn’t execute even if they controlled the government entirely.

Second, as Politico honchos Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen explain, “The party is hurting itself even more with the very voters they need to start winning back: Hispanics, blacks, gays, women and swing voters of all stripes.” That’s partially a consequence of theiragenda-less-ness, and partially a consequence of its members’ propensity to say things and advocate ideas that further alienate women and minorities.

Third, a combination of chance and poor decisions will turn the coming midterm into a referendum on issues custom tailored to energize Democratic demographics that tend to sit out midterms.

Actually there are four problems, not three. Number 4 is that it isn’t just that their policies “lack popular support”. It’s that their policies are batshit crazy and as destructive as a plague. Read the rest of this entry »

Teachers? We Don’t Need No Steenking Teachers

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Joel Pett, Lexington, KY Herald-Leader

Written by Mick

March 13, 2010 at 12:09 pm

Plato and Movement Conservatives: A Match Made in Form

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republicI just read Plato’s Republic for the first time and it just zipped by – 400 pgs in 2 days. Maybe because it was a good translation or maybe because most of the ideas supporting Plato’s “ideal state” turned out to be so childish that I didn’t have to spend much time thinking about them. I covered most of them in junior high, at which time I located and identified the serious flaws in concepts like domination by the state, forced unity, a single definition of Good, and a concept of Truth that didn’t actually include any.

The Republic suffers from all of these and a good deal more, and I suppose his critics (starting with Aristotle) have probably done a much better job than I could delineating and then deconstructing them. The truth is that I found the book mildly amusing (except for Book 7, Chap 2, which introduces a couple of concepts that were to be the basis of philosophical thinking for the next 2500 yrs) in the same way one might chuckle at a memory of the paper he wrote in 9th grade Social Studies supporting Barry Goldwater for President because “maybe an atomic war is just what we need to clean the slate and start fresh.” That’s how you think when you’re 14.

Life, of course, not to mention politics, are a little more complicated than that and even Plato recognized it when he insisted at the end of the book that he never expected to see his Republic in the real world. Still, that he thought a state run by a complicated procedure that married uncomfortable opposites – the “ideal” Republic is part autocratic/militarist dictatorship, part democratic free-for-all, and part elitist aristocracy run by “philosopher kings” who turn out to be characterized by dispositions and beliefs exactly similar to, well, Plato’s – would actually work if someone would just give it a chance is so adorably clueless that I had a pleasant few hours imagining the horrible results of philosopher-rule.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Mick

May 21, 2009 at 7:30 pm

The Bush Library: Control of History to Save a Sorry Image

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George W Bush, as I have argued many times, has been a spectacularly successful president – if your definition of “successful” includes turning the govt into a sort of combination National Chamber of Commerce and corporate wish-list enforcer. He has virtually gotten everything he’s asked for, usually on his own terms. He had a rubber-stamp Republican Congress for 6 of his 8 years and even when the Democrats won it back in ’06 largely due to the way his ultraconservative, pro-corporate policies devastated the country, they continued to give him pretty much everything he wanted, including FISA, telecom immunity, more troops in Iraq (anybody remember “the surge”?) and worker- and environment-unfriendly trade deals.

But once he’s gone, history is not going to look kindly on him. He hasn’t left yet and already they aren’t. The reasons are simple: his success has been a disaster for the nation in every important area one can think of. Surprisingly, that’s not how he sees it. For example, he’s currently running around insisting that the odious, destructive NCLB has been a major success and even had the gall to warn Obama not to mess with it.

Bush argued that No Child Left Behind has “forever changed America’s school systems” for the better, forcing accountability on failing public schools and leading to measurable improvements among poor and minority students. [There's no evidence whatever it has done any such thing, but since when would a lack of proof stop Bush?]

“I firmly believe that, thanks to this law, students are learning, an achievement gap is closing,” Bush told the audience at General Philip Kearny School.

He also suggested that Obama, who has vowed to overhaul the program, should tread carefully before following through on promises of reform. “There is a growing consensus across the country that now is not the time to water down standards or to roll back accountability,” Bush said.

No, there isn’t. There’s a growing consensus that NCLB has been an utter failure and needs to be re-vamped. Personally, I think it’s so bad there’s no saving it. We ought to throw it out and start over.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Mind of a Biologist: Big Meanings in Tiny Animals

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It’s hard to know where to begin with a book like Lewis Thomas’ The Lives of a Cell: Notes of a Biology Watcher. As slim as a mystery novella (the chapters are very short, the longest a bare 9 pgs), Lives of a Cell is packed with low-key language that disguises world-changing ideas. It took me a week to read a book that would ordinarily have taken a day simply because each short chapter generated so much I needed to think about that I couldn’t digest more than one at a time. It was like eating a meal so brilliantly prepared, balanced, and spiced that even though there wasn’t much bulk to each course one didn’t want to disturb the pleasure of the last by moving onto the next until one’s mouth and taste buds had been thoroughly cleansed and were ready for the richness to follow.

For instance, the two macro-notions that more or less underpin the book each could – and most likely have – engendered many deep philosophical works that discussed the ins and outs, pros and cons from the many different directions each of them suggests. I can’t possibly do justice to them here. I barely have the space to explain them let alone the many and various lines of thought they open up.

For example, one of the book’s two major themes is the idea that it is possible that mankind is a sort of superorganism, that, like certain kinds of social insects, when organized into a social marcrocosm we become, like ants and termites, capable of far more than we could ever hope to accomplish on our own – when we are operating on what he calls “our conjoined intelligence”. In the chapter titled “On Societies as Organisms” he writes:

Ants are so much like human beings as to be an embarrassment. They farm fungi, raise aphids as livestock, launch armies into wars, use chemical sprays to alarm and confuse enemies, capture slaves. The familes of weaver ants engage in child labor, holding their larvae like shuttles to spin out the thread that sews the leaves together for their fungus garden. They exchange information ceaselessly. They do everything but watch television.

***

A solitary ant, afield, cannot be considered to have much of anything on his mind; indeed, with only a few neurons strung together by fibers, he can’t be imagined to have a mind at all, much less a thought. He is more like a ganglion on legs. Four ants together, or ten, encircling a dead moth on a path, begin to look more like an idea. They fumble and shove, gradually moving the food toward the Hill, but as though by blind chance. It is only when you watch the dense mass of thousands of ants, crowded together around the Hill, blackening the ground, that you begin to see the whole beast, and now you observe it thinking, planning, calculating. It is an intelligence, a kind of live computer, with crawling bits for its wits.

The concept of mankind as a single organism unaccountably split into its component parts with each individual retaining its species cohesion while at the same time celebrating itself as the owner of a unique piece of the puzzle is not new. The entomologist William Morton Wheeler coined the term “superorganism” in 1911 to explain the phenomenon of insect intelligence when grouped together and science fiction writers have been playing with the idea ever since. The most recent well-known example is probably the Borg. But for a biologist to be toying with such an unorthodox interpretation of scientific data is unusual in 2008 and was near unheard of in the 70’s when this book was written.

Nor is that the only heretical idea Mr Thomas had up his sleeve. Read the rest of this entry »

The Bush Library Unpacked

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This came in via email from Thomas Nephew and is apparently being passed around. It may or may not be an actual rundown of Bush Library features, but if it isn’t it ought to be.

Please Support the Bush Library

The George W Bush Presidential Library is now in the planning stages.  Please consider a contribution to our President’s new library, which will be located in Crawford, Texas, and also in a satellite facility in the Green Zone in Baghdad.  The Library will include:

The Hurricane Katrina Room, which is still under construction.

The Alberto Gonzales Room, where you won’t be able to remember anything.

The Texas Air National Guard Room, where you won’t even have to show up.

The Walter Reed Hospital Room, where they don’t let you in.

The Guantanamo Bay Room, where they don’t let you out.

The Weapons of Mass Destruction Room, which no one will be able to find.

The National Debt room which is huge and has no ceiling.

The ‘Tax Cut’ Room with entry only to the wealthy.

The ‘Economy Room’, which is in the toilet.

The Iraq War Room. After you complete your first tour, you will get to go back for a second, third, fourth, and sometimes fifth tour.

The Dick Cheney Room, in the famous undisclosed location, complete with shotgun gallery.

The Environmental Conservation Room, still empty.

The Alaska Wildlife Room, which is currently closed for oil exploration.

The No Child Left Behind Room, where you and your children are pre-tested, then tested, and afterward post-tested in an endless cycle.

Adjacent to that the Mission to Mars Room, where — as you would expect — no child is left behind.

The Compassionate Conservatism Room, which charges a separate admission fee and is actually a chute leading down to the Guantanamo Bay room.

The Water Boarding Demonstration Room, which doesn’t meet the definition of torture.

The Supreme Court Gift Shop, where you can buy an election.

The Decider Room complete with dart board, magic 8-ball, Ouija board, dice, coins, and straws.

The museum will have an electron microscope to help you locate the President’s accomplishments.

Admission: Republicans – free; Democrats — $1000 or 3 Euros

PS: Your User ID is now listed with Homeland Security. Feel better?

Written by Mick

August 14, 2008 at 3:49 pm

Bush Lobbyist Caught Selling Access to VP Cheney in Return for Donations to Bush Library/Propaganda Center (Updated)

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Well, I’m not surprised.

The Sunday London Times is reporting that big-time Bush lobbyist Stephen Payne is busy these days selling access to Dick Cheney in return for (sizable) donations to the Bush Library and Propaganda Center.

The images on the tiny screen of Stephen Payne’s personal organiser told a clear story: this was a man with connections at the highest level.

One showed Payne uprooting dead trees side by side with George W Bush on the US president’s Texas ranch. Another depicted him skeet shooting next to Dick Cheney, the vice-president, and a third grinning for the camera alongside Condoleezza Rice, the secretary of state.

The man on the other side of the table from Payne at the Lanesborough hotel in central London last week appeared impressed by the contents of the BlackBerry. He was a familiar figure, a Kazakh politician Payne knew as Eric Dos.

 Dos, whose full name is Yerzhan Dosmukhamedov, told Payne that he was representing another foreign political figure who was looking to meet the top people in the US government.

 Dos had good reason for believing that Payne could make it happen. Payne has accompanied Bush and Cheney on foreign trips to the Middle East and Asia, and he sits on the influential advisory council to the Department of Homeland Security. Payne is also president of a lobbying company, Worldwide Strategic Partners (WSP), which specialises in connecting business and political interests with the US government.

Dos told Payne that the politician needing help was Askar Akayev, the former president of the central Asian state of Kyrgyzstan.

Akayev, who is in exile in Moscow after being ousted from power three years ago in a people’s revolt, was seeking an endorsement from senior US figures in order to help rehabilitate himself in the eyes of the world, Dos told Payne.

“Who does he want to meet with in Washington?” asked the American. Dos replied: “Well of course, maybe the president of the United States, vice-president Cheney, to speak maybe directly to explain the situation in central Asia . . . To give his side of the story. These kind of things.”

“I think that some things could be done,” said Payne, adding that seeing Bush himself might be more difficult. With barely a pause, he continued:

“I think that the family, children, whatever [of Akayev], should probably look at making a contribution to the Bush library.

“It would be like, maybe a couple of hundred thousand dollars, or something like that, not a huge amount but enough to show that they’re serious.”

(emphasis added) 

Whew! That’s a relief. For a minute there I thought we were talking about real money. $200K for a visit with L’il Dick so a deposed dictator could have a sympathetic audience listen to “his side of the story”? Cheap at twice the price. And who knows? L’il Dick can understand the pain of autocrats slung out of their country for torture, theft (isn’t Akayev the one who boiled his political opponents in oil?). He might be looking at something similar himself one of these days. Maybe he’ll invade Kyrgyzstan and give the guy back his country if he promises to join the worldwide WOT and turn Kyrgyzstan’s oil fields over to Halliburton and Chevron for management/sale.

Hey, it’s doable. Disgusting but doable.

I wish I could say this means the Bushies have struck rock bottom but selling access for $$$ is what they do. what they’ve been doing for years. 

The scandal isn’t that a BushBaby is breaking the law. This is minor for these guys. The scandal is that I have to read about it in the foreign press. The reporter was undercover – a concept the US press abandoned after the Food Lion fiasco because it wasn’t fair to corporate pirates and their willingness to poison us for a buck or two – and he recorded the conversation (legal, despite conservative howling to the contrary). Who these days in the US could imagine such a thing happening? Not me.

Dos said that in the autumn of 2005 he had been asked by the Kazakh government, via Kulibayev, to arrange a visit by Cheney. The intention was to improve the country’s international standing.

Dos had spent several days negotiating with Payne. A deal was eventually agreed, he said, and he understood that a payment of $2m was passed, via a Kazakh oil and gas company, to Payne’s firm.

The following May, Cheney made a brief trip to Kazakhstan. His visit was remarked upon in the media at the time, both for the lavish praise which he publicly heaped on Nazarbayev and for the stark contrast between this and a speech he had made just a day earlier at a conference in Lithuania in which he had lambasted Russia for being insufficiently democratic. Now he was lauding Nazarbayev, who has effectively made himself president for life and in whose country it is an offence to criticise him.

“Why did Cheney castigate Russia’s imperfect democracy while saying not a word about Kazakhstan’s shameless travesty of the democratic system?” said one newspaper following the visit. “Cheney’s flattery of the Kazakh regime was sickening,” said another.

Hey! Cheney is an honorable man. If he takes money to fluff a country, bigod, he fluffs that country! No matter what kind of hellish conditions he has to ignore. He lives up to his contracts.

Some of them…

I don’t imagine this is serious enough to get much attention as a scandal. It’s pretty small potatoes for the Bushies. So maybe SMU doesn’t really have to worry very much about the soiling of its reputation that bribery on behalf of the school will inevitably bring about. Maybe they don’t think it’s any big deal considering they’re willing to look past torture. Maybe they think John Wesley would take a laissez-faire approach to White House corruption, spying, theft, and contempt for the law. Maybe that’s all OK with Methodists now.

Apparently it must be, because the Bishops have been perfectly willing to bow to Bush pressure and overlook all of it. What’s one more crime more or less? Bribery? Fagh. Who cares?

Clearly the Methodist bishops don’t.

UPDATE: (7/15/08) Lindsay Beyerstein has dug up a lot more at Majikthese.

Written by Mick

July 14, 2008 at 6:35 pm

The Bush Library (8): Opponents Fight Back

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Last we heard from the Bush Library fight, the Methodist General Conference had just rejected the Bush plan for a library and propaganda center at Southern Methodist University, and the Bishops, kowtowing to pressure from the White House, had agreed to ignore that vote. The fight goes on, however. Rev Andrew Weaver & friends have just started a new website called What Would John Wesley Do? that is assembling the arguments and evidence for rejecting the Library/Propaganda Center as well as making the case for the legal necesssity of accepting the GC’s decision. One of its first additions is a scathing letter from Tex Semple, an SJC Delegate for 20 years.

On March 14, 2007, Southern Methodist University asked the Mission Council, a meeting of SCJ representatives, for permission to lease campus property to the Bush Foundation as the site for the President George W. Bush library, museum, and policy institute. 

In January 2008, following the Mission Council meeting, the SCJ College of Bishops interpreted the action of the Mission Council and gave the assurance, requested by the Bush Foundation, that the Mission Council had authority to approve the lease of the jurisdictional property on the SMU campus.

But the College of Bishops does not have this authority according to Paragraph 56, Article II.4 of the constitution of The United Methodist Church (p. 38).  In the 2004 Book of Discipline, it specifically states: “The Judicial Council shall have authority to hear and determine the legality of any action taken therein by any jurisdictional conference board or body, upon appeal by one-third of the members thereof in a Jurisdictional Conference.” 

By giving their interpretation, the SCJ College of Bishops not only preempted the authority of the Judicial Council but also set the stage for the lease signing and for closing the door to a Jurisdictional Conference vote.

(emphasis in the original)

Which was, of course, the whole point. The Bush forces would probably lose the SJC vote the same way they lost the GC vote, which went overwhelmingly against them, 844-20. Their solution is the usual Bush Solution: go around the will of the majority and use raw power to bring leaders more sympathetic to your position in line. The Bishops, like everybody else who comes in contact with the Bushes, knuckled under, violating their own laws and procedures. Mr Semple suggests they couldn’t have picked a worse subject to support.

The greater problem is the partisan multi-million dollar Bush Institute, which will be totally under the control of the Bush Presidential Foundation, not SMU.  While any viewpoints expressed by Institute Fellows will accordingly be identified with the Foundation, it nevertheless makes SMU the location and signifying marker of this partisan think tank.  Furthermore, the purpose of this Institute is to promote the politically partisan and ethically questionable ideas and policies of George W. Bush. 

The influence of neo-conservative and supply-side economic thought and policy has been dominant in the United States now for more than 35 years, and the Bush Administration the most disastrous example of it.  These politics and economics have contributed to a sharply growing inequality in income and wealth, a tax system that serves the rich, an increasing insecurity for middle class families, the flattening of wages for workers while their productivity increases, growing concentrations of power in corporate America and in the media, and the loss of regulation of corporate activity resulting in devastating disruptions of our national life, such as Enron and the sub-prime loan housing crisis.  This list names only a few of the problems with neoconservative politics and supply-side economics. 

Furthermore, commitment to a so-called “free market” without regard to the common good is a violation of Christian teaching.  Not to mention that commitment to a “free market” oblivious to concentrations of economic power is delusional fantasy when it is not a self-serving worldview committed to the interests of the few at the expense of the many.  What we have in neoconservative politics and supply side economics is what someone has called “feeding the horses so the birds can eat.”

(emphasis added)

 Mr Semple’s point isn’t that he doesn’t like trickle-down and thinks it doesn’t work. His point is that the very idea goes against Methodist teaching, a point I wish the hell somebody had brought up 30 years ago when Reagan sold it to a country not paying much attention to what he was saying. He goes on to quote the Methodist Book of Social Principles to show how Bush has been systematically ignoring them.

Even worse, Bush’s pre-emptive war against Iraq, the complicity of his administration in torture, and the serious disregard for human rights in the Bush administration campaign against terrorism raise even more sharply the question of why we would permit this institute on the SMU campus. The Social Principles state: “We believe war is incompatible with the teachings and example of Christ…” (165, C).  Is this not even more so when the war is pre-emptive?  The Social Principles further declare: “the mistreatment or torture of persons by governments for any purpose violates Christian teaching” (164, A).  The complicity of the Bush administration in torture stands clearly in opposition to this teaching.  

Further, the Social Principles assert that “We strongly reject domestic surveillance” (164, A), yet this has become policy in the Bush administration.  I have not mentioned at least five other violations of The United Methodist Church’s Social Principles by the Bush Administration: environmental abuses (Par. 160), the health of children (162, C), the death penalty (164, G), social services and poverty (163, E), and freedom of information (164, D).

All in all, it is one of the most cohesive indictments of the Bush Administration’s disastrous policies that I’ve read in months, and the only one I think I’ve ever read that identifies his actions as anathema to specific religious teachings, something else I wish someone had done a long time ago because Mr Semple is quite right: the Bush/Cheney Administration has done so many things forbidden by any number of religions that they’re beyond the pale. Had anyone else done what they’ve done, Bill Clinton for instance, they would have been excommunicated.

Not Bush. Bush buys off the Bishops – or scares them, or manipulates them – and gets his Rove-run propaganda center on the campus of a college that used to pride itself on teaching Methodist principles. If the bishops have their way – by breaking their own Methodist law – they won’t be able to say that much longer.

Written by Mick

July 5, 2008 at 2:15 pm

Posted in Bush Library, Religion

Rove Takes Over The SMU Library/Propaganda Center

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Andrew Weaver writes at Media Transparency that Karl Rove is sitting in the middle of the Bush Library-Institute at SMU (Southern Methodist University) like a spider sitting in the middle of a web.

Bush’s trickster, Karl Rove, “is planning to take charge…of the design, fundraising, and planning” of the Bush presidential complex at SMU. Benjamin Johnson, a history professor at SMU, attended the 2007 annual meeting of the Organization of American Historians. Several colleagues there reported that Karl Rove had been traveling around the country examining research facilities and discussing how to select Bush institute fellows (Johnson, 2007a). One prominent library director said, “Rove seems to know exactly what the square footage is of the building that will be at SMU and where it will be located on campus” (Johnson, 2007a).

Mark Langdale, president of the Bush library foundation recently confirmed that Rove is advising the organization, stating that he is “a critical resource about what happened in the administration, and he has a lot of good ideas about programming and positioning” (Meyers, 2008). This hands-on involvement by Rove demonstrates the importance of the proposed think tank at SMU to Bush insiders.

Unless the UMC takes a stand, neither SMU nor the UMC will have any say over the actions, agenda, or direction of an autonomous $500 million partisan-driven complex at one of its major universities. Karl Rove, who has a long history of hard-ball partisanship, will be in charge and he will roll out a giant Trojan horse and push it right through the front gate. The 99 year lease for a single dollar with a 249 year option (that the Bush foundation has required) means that after July, 2008 the next chance for the church to address the issue is the year 2357 (Peck, 2008).

Which means, of course, that this is the last effective time the Methodist Church will have a chance to challenge the erection of a propaganda center on their campus that will have as its goal the propagation of the Bush Agenda – torture, Constitution-trashing, monarchical presidential power, preemptive war, falsified intelligence, corporate toadying, etc – ruled over by the conscienceless man who made it happen with trickery, deceit, lies, and thievery. It will, as Andrew writes, “recruit, train, support, organize and deploy the next generation of right-wing political operatives.”

And all of it under Rove’s command.

If that doesn’t scare you, read the rest of the article.

Written by Mick

June 21, 2008 at 4:05 pm

Posted in Bush Library, Rove

The Bush Commencement Speech: Hypocrisy in Greenville (Updated)

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There is, I think, nothing more maddening for me than to watch or listen to or even hear about one of this president’s moralistic speeches, the ones wherein he  counsels everyone to “be true to American values”. I didn’t have to watch it or hear it but he just did another one, a commencement speech at Furman University in Greenville, SC, in which this defender of torture, this moralist who publicly admits he’s willing to let sick kids die if it means protecting insurance company profits, this ex-addict who abused booze and did so much coke he couldn’t remember if he’d done any, lectured the graduating class on living a “culture of responsibility” and told them “they would never find fulfillment in ‘alcohol, drugs or promiscuity.'” Easy for him to say. He’s had his already. Decades of it.

The hypocrisy at Furman must have been hip-deed on the ground, like wading through a basement after the sewer pipe bursts.

“A culture of responsibility means serving others,” Mr. Bush said. “To all of you, my call is to make service to others a way of life. Wherever you live, whatever you do, find a way to give back to your communities.”

To understand this clap-trap, we need a Bush Interpretator. I offer my services. I will explain the above quote by defining key words that don’t quite mean the same thing to Mr Bush that they do to you and me.

For instance, when we say the word “community”, we generally mean our community – the town we live in, the county, the state, perhaps the region. When Mr Bush says the word “community” what we know from his actions he really means to say is “business community”. For example, eRobin wrote about his intention to veto a Medicare Bill that he says protects doctors and patients “at the expense of private insurance companies.” Can’t have that in BushAmerica.

Then there is that lovely word “others”. If we are to decide who he means when he says “others” we have to look at who he has chosen to serve, and in that case the overwhemling answer would have to be “corporations” because Mr Bush has spent his entire presidency working to make things easier for them. He hasn’t lifted a finger to help anyone else. Of the weak and disenfranchised, from poor, sick kids to the refugees from Katrina to the elderly to the unemployed, he has been unavailable at best and actively hostile at worst. One of the biggest and most fervent of his crusades was the one to abolish the Social Security system and force everyone to win their retirement money through the slot-machine-type lottery of the stock market.

Therefore, if we are to take Mr Bush at his word defined by his actions, his translated comment would have to read:

“A culture of responsibility means serving corporations,” Mr. Bush said. “To all of you, my call is to make service to corporations a way of life. Wherever you live, whatever you do, find a way to give back to your business communities.”

Of course, I’m not the only one who sees through the Bush mask. The students and faculty of Furman itself were less than thrilled at his decision to pontificate at them.

[E]ven here, in a reliably Republican state, the president’s visit prompted protests by students and faculty members, who complained in recent weeks about his selection as a graduation speaker. The event at which he spoke on Saturday evening was open only to ticket holders.

More than 200 Furman professors and students signed a statement criticizing Bush administration policies and the Iraq war.

“Under ordinary circumstances, it would be an honor for Furman University to be visited by the president of the United States,” the statement said. “However, these are not ordinary circumstances.”

The statement said the Iraq war had “severely damaged our government’s ethical and moral credibility at home and abroad.”

***

Mr. Bush…ignored about 15 faculty members who stood silently, wearing T-shirts that bore the words, “We Object.”

I bet. That’s what he usually does. What surprises me is that the 15 were allowed into the event in the first place. He usually protects himself from dissenters by having them blocked from attending and the ones wearing critical t-shirts are normally arrested.

But the most hypocritical moment in a hyper-hypocritical speech has to be this one:

 Mr. Bush said[,] “There is no shame in recognizing your failings or getting help if you need it. The tragedy comes when we fail to take responsibility for our weaknesses and surrender to them.”

(emphasis added)

This would be poignant if there was a scintilla of a suggestion that he was looking back on his own disastrous tenure with an inkling of understanding, but of course there wasn’t because he isn’t. At the end of his abominable presidency he is as certain that everybody else on the planet but him is wrong as he was at the beginning. He may actually believe, this president who has successfully ducked taking responsibility for any of his actions practically from the day he was born, that his avoidance of it is the apex of responsibility, that his blind stubborness represents the height of true strength.

Although I have to admit that in the Most Hypocritical Statement Sweepstakes, this one would give the previous one a run for its money:

Mr. Bush said: “Our country needs corporate responsibility as well as personal responsibility. So my call to those of you entering the business world is to be honest with your shareholders, be truthful with your customers and give back to the communities in which you live.”

One is forced to wonder what he could possibly mean by that, this man who has spent the last 7 years actively helping corporations avoid responsibility for their actions, lie to their shareholders, rip off their customers, and steal resources from every single community in which they’re located. How does one square this statement with the reality of his refusal to allow the SEC to investigate his buddy Ken Lay for 2 years? Or with his turning over of virtually every once-watchdog govt agency to lobbyists and corporate lawyers who come from the very industries those agencies are supposed to police? Or with the fact that his Justice Dept has investigated fewer cases of corporate malfeasance than any JD since the Teapot Dome scandal?

One can’t. They aren’t squarable. One is forced to the conclusion that this man who has escaped accountability for everything his entire life fully expects to continue escaping for whatever remains of it. Or else he is so incredibly dense that he actually believes white is black, down is up, and bad is good simply because he says so and the sycophants he has surrounded himself with echo it as loud as they can. “Mr President, you’re a genius. Of course you’re right, Mr President. Yes, Mr President.”

Bush White House: Sycophants-R-Us.

There is so little self-awareness in Bush that one simply can’t reasonably suspect that he isn’t what he patently is: a spoiled brat who has no more concept of the real world than a mushroom. Yet people pay to hear him speak riddles and hypocrisies and lies in a mangled English that is the best he can manage, this so-called Yale graduate.

Ugh.

UPDATE: (6/5/08) One rather astounding section of Bush’s speech escaped the notice of the fawning NYT reporter but not the sharp ears of Seattle Post-Intelligencer columnist Scot Lehigh: George W Bush warned the students about…going into debt.

I couldn’t make this stuff up.

But here’s what took the commencement cake: Bush’s warning to graduates to avoid amassing too much debt.

“You can strengthen our country by showing fiscal discipline in your lives,” he said. “It may sound funny coming from a visitor from Washington, D.C., but it’s important to your futures and the future of our country.”

Although that quote suggests the president has some inkling that he’s an unlikely messenger on this topic, it didn’t keep him from offering this counsel: “My advice to you is not to dig a financial hole that you can’t get out of. Live within your means.”

***

Having inherited a budget in surplus and a declining national debt, this president pushed through a series of tax cuts and presided over spending increases that have left us awash in red ink.

Publicly held federal debt has gone from $3.4 trillion when Bush took office to $5.3 trillion. Add in the trillions owed to government accounts like the Social Security Trust Fund, and our total national debt is now $9.4 trillion, up from $5.6 trillion in 2000. That’s more than $30,000 for every American citizen. Meanwhile, since 2001, long-term unfunded liabilities and commitments have ballooned from about $20 trillion to more than $50 trillion.

“We have gone from a point where we had current and projected budget surpluses to where we have large and growing deficits,” says former comptroller general David Walker, who led the Government Accountability Office from late 1998 until March of this year. “And we have gone from a point where we were projected to pay off all the federal debt and have fiscal sustainability for 40-plus years to a point where we have large and mounting debt burdens and the simulation model that is used by GAO to project fiscal sustainability crashes in about 40 years.”

ZERO self-awareness factor, ZERO irony quotient.

Written by Mick

June 1, 2008 at 4:46 pm

The Bush Library (7): The Legal Battle

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With Bishop Jones fronting for the Bush family and scorning the wishes and feelings of his own church membership, the effort to stop the Bush Propaganda Center is moving toward the courtroom. Bush’s insistence on siting the Propaganda Center at SMU despite the vote of the UMC’s GC rejecting it has created a legal problem for the Methodist Church. Andrew Weaver explains (from an email).

Our legal team tells us that we need to go to court to give us the best chance to protect the property rights and voting rights of the 290 Jurisdictional Conference delegates who are the elected representatives of the property owners, i.e., the 1.83 million UMC members of the South Central Jurisdiction (SCJ).

Unfortunately, the legal effort needs a member of the SCJ to come forward and act as the plaintiff. That hasn’t happened. Why?

Many fear the consequences to their future ministry if they appear to challenge their bishop, while others fear being countersued by the Bush Foundation.

With the Mafia-like scare tactics and intimidation typical of the Bush family’s dealings since Grandaddy Prentiss played kissy-kiss with the Nazis, George W and Karl Rove have effectively squashed the threat that for once they might have to obey an inconvenient law. With a tame bishop in their pockets and an on-retainer legal team, each ready to punish any Methodist who dares listen to his/her conscience instead of George W Bush, it seems that the Bush family will get away with flouting the law – this time church law – yet again.

Jim Hightower reported last month that Bush has ex-campaign shyster and all-round political hardman Karl Rove setting up the Library/Propaganda Center.

The Bushites have cut a deal with SMU executives to locate his presidential library on this private campus in one of Dallas’s wealthiest neighborhoods. They’ve targeted some Arab oil kingdoms, corporate chieftains, and wealthy heiresses to be the “megadonors” they need to raise half-a-billion bucks to establish George’s ex-presidential palace.

This one is to be markedly different than the usual complex of library, museum, and policy institute that other presidents have built. First (and unsurprisingly), rather than placing the full archive of the administration’s papers in the SMU complex so historians and others have access, Bush is to have a heavily-censored, anti-academic library. None other that Karl Rove will help with the censoring, making sure that historians only peruse documents that cast the Bush-Cheney regime in a glowing light.

(emphasis added)

Rev Weaver notes:

The majority of the delegates feel they can live with the library, even with its current limitation — censorship by the president and his heirs in perpetuity through his Executive Order 13233, signed soon after 9/11.  What many delegates are disturbed by and will vote against is the partisan think-tank to honor George Bush, which is being organized by Karl Rove.  Neither SMU nor the United Methodist Church will have any control over the direction of the partisan institute, and that deeply troubles many. 

So Karl Rove, as we reported some time ago, is going to be the connecting link between the so-called “library” and the Propaganda Center, making sure, in effect, that the library ignores scholarship for Bush worship and the “institute/think tank” ignores thinking for mindlessly pimping W’s policies and ideology. Which includes, Weaver reminds us, his ceaseless support for torture. Weaver makes the argument, as guest blogger at Wallwritings, that “Torture Is Not a Methodist Family Value“. After a short history of Bush’s advocacy of torture and Methodist founder John Wesley’s condemnation of it, Weaver writes:

President Bush refers to himself a “proud Methodist”, but he has shown little sign of contrition, regret or repentance for his personal behavior which violates Methodist standards set long ago by John Wesley. Instead, Bush attempts to justify himself and place a shield of protection around government officials who use torture. 

W may identify himself as a “proud Methodist”, but as investigative reporter Joe Esterhaz proved in his book American Rhapsody and others have confirmed, George W Bush doesn’t attend a Methodist Church and hasn’t since he became born-again under the tutelage of theatrical fundie Arthur Blessit.

Whenever Bush got into trouble, it wasn’t Billy Graham or Methodist preachers he ran to for solace and counsel, it was Pat Robertson and Bob Jones. I began to suspect that Bush’s Methodism was part of Karl Rove’s For Campaign Purposes Only “compassionate conservative” illusion and that he was really a fundamentalist in disguise, a far-right-winger playing to the center. Then, when Graham himself debunked Bush’s account after the publication of W’s campaign biography, ghost-written by a sports writer named Mickey Herskowitz, I knew it.

The idea that the Bush family itself is Methodist in any legitimate sense must of necessity be questioned when we consider, say, Poppy’s unusually close relationship with whacko fundie Rev Moon. A relationship so close that he hosted Moon at his presidential library in (where else?) Texas after Moonie “interests” donated $$1M$$ to said library.

The fiction that any member of the Bush family is actually and in reality Methodist has persisted right to the present day even though there isn’t an iota of evidence to support the proposition from any quarter. Poppy and Barb are Moonies, and W is a born-again fundie evangelist whose chief spiritual advisor is the guy who thinks hurricanes are caused by homosexuality.

Given that his Methodism is now a busted myth, why all the determination to make sure the library gets sited at a Methodist university? The answer is simple, especially if you’ve ever studied the way Bush and Rove do things: it’s cover.

Rove helped Bush to run the most secretive presidency in US history because he knew bloody well that if the public caught on to the real Bush agenda, we’d throw them out on their asses. So it was common for Rove to provide cover to distract or hide their real policies: Orwellian names (“Healthy Forest” for a bill opening public lands to commercial logging), foxes in charge of henhouses (a corporate lawyer who specialized in breaking unions appointed to head the Labor Dept), and the standard Bush bait-and-switch (promising to increase funding for Pell Grants days before he cut them out of his budget). This is simply another cover.

Rove and Bush both know that if the Methodists knew what was actually going to go on at the Propaganda Center, they’d revolt. But Bush needs the reputation of the Methodists as centrists and mainstream religious bi-partisans in order to provide his radically ideological “institute” with a patina of legitimacy. “We can’t be cranks, we’re part of a Methodist university.”

IOW, the Methodist Church is being used by the Bushes. It is to be the sheep’s-clothing under which the wolf hides so unsuspecting prey will think they’re safe and wander close enough to be eaten. Is that the role the UMC wants to play? Clearly not, but Bush is in an apparent position to force them to be his “beard” whether they like it or not.

Not that the opposition is giving up. They have an alternate plan.

Over the past several months we have systematically analyzed the 290 delegates of the SCJ with the help of delegates or clergy from each annual conference.  I have personally spoken with over 40 delegates.  We identified about 130 progressives, 100 conservatives and 60 moderates in the 11 annual conferences.   We need 146 votes to win.  If we can educate the delegates about the dangers of the Bush partisan think thank to the academic integrity of SMU and the good name of our church, we can win the vote.  Most United Methodists, including most bishops, are people who seek to do what is right and good.

I wish them luck.

Written by Mick

May 10, 2008 at 2:21 pm

The Bush Library: A Done Deal According to…Rev Moon

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One post at Talk to Action raises two interesting questions.

The first is: Is the Library/Propaganda Institute a done deal or not? John Gorenfeld seems to think so. He reports that the Rev Sung Myung Moon was recently feted at “the Bush presidential library in College Station, TX.” Um, that’s SMU, where, as we reported 3 days ago, the General Council of the United Methodist Church decisively rejected the siting of the library.

So the Bushes are going right ahead as if the siting is a done deal despite the UMC GC’s action? Apparently. And so is UMC Bishop Scott Jones, according to a press release from leader of the opposition Rev Andrew Weaver.

“The General Conference of the United Methodist Church did receive a petition asking it to block SMU’s decision to lease land for the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Center.  Its decision was only to refer it to the South Central Jurisdictional Conference.  In no way did it reject the decision already made by the South Central Jurisdiction’s Mission Council.  The action was merely procedural because the General Conference said the decision belonged at the Jurisdictional level.  The overwhelming nature of the vote was due to the fact that it, along with 11 other petitions, was on a consent calendar….” (1).  Scott J. Jones, Bishop, Kansas Area of the United Methodist Church. (Press Statement, May 3, 2008)

 

United Methodist Bishop Scott J. Jones of Kansas has been an outspoken advocate for locating the Bush library and partisan institute at Southern Methodist University (SMU) (2-3). He has also told the press that the right of the South Central Jurisdiction (SCJ) delegates to vote on the use of their church property at SMU will not be honored, although it is clearly stated in church law that a vote is mandated (4-5).

This appears to continue to be Jones’ position even after an 844-20 vote on a petition calling for the rejection of the Bush project was referred to the SCJ by the highest authority in the UMC – its General Conference. 

 

Bishop Jones, taking a leaf apparently from the Bush Arrogance Book, has decided that he doesn’t need to obey the UMC GC’s decision and that in his position as an SMU Trustee, backing the Bushes is more important than following the laws of his church.

Bishop Jones told the Dallas Morning News in 2007 that the thousands of fellow United Methodists and SMU alumni who signed a petition (www.protectSMU.org) objecting to Bush partisan think tank “would have no influence” on him as an SMU trustee.  Moreover, he declared that SMU “trustees — not the United Methodist Church — have the final say on decisions that SMU makes about the library” (6).  Bishop Jones made this statement despite the fact that the UMC founded and owns SMU, and the trustees are appointed under the authority of the church.

One would call the Bishop’s attitude “astounding” if one hadn’t become inured over the past 7 years to all kinds people jettisoning all kinds of laws for the Bushes that they’d never in a million years disregard for anybody else. It has become almost routine for everyone around these would-be aristocrats to act as if the laws, traditions, and values of our nation don’t apply to the Georges.

If Bishop Jones is allowed to thumb his nose at his own church, its by-laws, and its legally-constituted bodies in order to ram the Bush Propaganda Institute down the throats of a religious group wholly opposed to an alliance with and on behalf of the man who began an illegal war, trashed the Constitution to spy on his own citizens, and vigorously supports torturing prisoners, if Bishop Jones is allowed to do all that without any consequences whatever, then before so much as a brick has been laid for this unconscionable library, the Methodist Church will have given up any and all chance for respect.

Clearly Bishop Jones is doing the Bidding of the Bushes. Having tried to stop the vote from taking place, now that Bush has lost it he has ordered his tame bishop to ignore the vote. The Bishop should be removed immediately. He has put the wishes of a powerful constituent over the wishes of his own legal church body. That is simply NOT acceptable anywhere else.

Worse, perhaps, is that George HW Bush – Poppy – decided to celebrate the UMC GC’s decision to reject the library by having a “do” for the Rev Moon on property they labeled as “the presidential library” for gullible members of the press. Gorenfeld is a smart guy, but even he didn’t seem to realize he was being had: the Library doesn’t yet exist. So where was this “event”?

And what’s with inviting Moon to be the first guest so honored? I quote Gorenfeld:

Moon is on record as opposing constitutional government; according to his church, he told the folks at the Bush library that he envisioned a world [emphasis mine]

where some of the weaknesses of democracy, and in particular the wasted efforts of extreme partisanship, can be relieved by the involvement of elder statesmen as senior advisors.

 

***

According to a reliable source within the Moon organization who provided me with password-guarded HTML files, the Reverend elaborated on his fantasies last year in a sermon so shocking, it was not released to the public (unlike thousands of others available online.)

All the irrelevant books in the world should be burned away. I cannot tolerate books that belong under the leftist ideology. Do you understand?

And that is, of course, the very tippity-tip of the Moonie iceberg.

So let’s recap:

The president’s Poppy invited well-known religious fruitcake/fanatic Rev Moon to the very first event publicized as taking place at the new George W Bush Library, which doesn’t yet exist and which has been rejected by the legal church body controlling the site whom the local Bishop (a Bush Buddy and a member of SMU’s Board of Trustees) claims has no jurisdiction over either the site or his decision to support it, defying the legal decision of the UMC as a whole.

Is this a Bush Production or what?

Written by Mick

May 7, 2008 at 4:48 pm

Posted in Bush Library

Bush Library Rejected by Methodist Church

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Via email from the Rev Andrew Weaver comes the interesting news that against all odds the opponents of the Bush Library and Propaganda Farm have won a major victory.

At the United Methodist General Conference Meeting in Fort Worth, TX, an overwhelming majority of the membership (844-20) rejected the idea of siting the Bush Library on the grounds of a Methodist university (SMU).

In other words, just to be clear about this: the President of the United States was just told in no uncertain terms by the legal body of his own supposed church that he can’t put his library where he wants to put it.

I can only speculate as to what arguments pushed the members to this decision but it’s a not-unreasonable guess that the meritorius objections of its opponents, the standard Bush/Cheney heavy-handed bullying, and the standard Bush corruption scenario probably combined to give the membership a sour taste of what the future could hold if their church becomes permanently associated with the Bush Propaganda Institute.

Amswering his email, I asked Rev Weaver what this meant and what the next step was. He replied that it forces a vote in July at Dallas by the United Methodist Church (UMC) Regional board that owns SMU.

smu has been claiming they signed a lease with gwb foundation and that was the end of it–this vote says a vote is required and the 11.5 million umc folk are not happy with the association

Guess not. This rolls the project back further than Square One. The Bushies, by trying to use their political clout in Texas to sidestep the national UMC membership in effect and if for no other reason, pissed them off. The General Conference has the power to reject the project, and they just have.

You know what? The Good Guys just won a Big One. Stay tuned for further developments.

Written by Mick

May 3, 2008 at 4:36 pm

Posted in Bush Library

Theocrats Never Quit: Vouchers and HS 888

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Two recent posts at Talk to Action, the website that specializes in tracking the religious right, show quite clearly that despite our overwhelming rejection of mixing religion and education in the public arena, Xtian theocrats not only haven’t given up the effort to make the US a “Christian Nation” governed by Biblical rather than secular law, they’re surrounding their failed attempts with new arguments possibly scarier than the last bunch. Don Byrd opens yesterday’s post on Bush’s latest school voucher proposal by saying, “If there is one thing we should have learned from the Religious Right by now, it’s that they never give up.” Something we should remember always – you can’t take your eyes off them for a second.

Witness Bush’s latest excuse for proposing school vouchers yet again even though it’s been proved repeatedly that they don’t work. Under the typically Orwellian name, “Pell Grants for Kids”, misleading and inaccurate to say the least, Bush’s rationale verges on the creepy.

Non-public schools, including faith-based schools, have helped to educate generations of low-income students; however, they are disappearing at an alarming rate.

The buried assumption that it is the appropriate business of govt to rescue religious schools in financial trouble is directly contrary to our Constitutionally-mandated neutrality toward religion in a secular society. Byrd disposes of this argument in a few words.

Of all the stated reasons I’ve heard to offer school vouchers, propping up religious schools has got to be the worst. Religious institutions should make their own case for being, and should be supported by like-minded believers, not by taxpayer money. If they are “disappearing”, that is a concern to be addressed by the church, not by the government.

We certainly don’t want the mechanisms of the state to stand in the way of the church. But, we can’t be promoting them either.

(emphasis added)

Bush’s inability to either understand or accept that relatively simple concept is one of the hallmarks of his presidency and a key reason why it has failed. His “thinking” is so ideological, so limited, so shallow in nearly every respect that even patently improper ideas are never questioned. No matter how absurd they are or how much evidence exists that they’re wrong, ineffective, or even harmful to American society, he cannot see their flaws simply because he’s decided not to look for any. Anything he chooses to believe is true, and any evidence that it isn’t must have been faked or twisted. Like most ideologues, he always assumes that everyone else is also an ideologue. Like most corrupt Republicans, he assumes that everyone else must also be corrupt. Like most conservatives, he finds it easier to foster simple-minded beliefs than to do the work it would take to find the truth.

Which brings us to Chris Rodda’s post on HR 888.

HR 888 is a bill introduced by Cong Randy Forbes (R-VA) that would try to force the phony “history” of our Founders’ supposed Christianity into the school system.

This resolution, which purports to promote “education on America’s history of religious faith,” is packed with the same American history lies found on the Christian nationalist websites, and in the books of pseudo-historians like David Barton. It lists a total of seventy-five “Whereas’s,” leading up to four resolves, the third of which is particularly disturbing — that the U.S. House of Representatives “rejects, in the strongest possible terms, any effort to remove, obscure, or purposely omit such history from our Nation’s public buildings and educational resources,” a travesty of the highest magnitude, considering that most of the “history” this resolve aims to promote in our public buildings and schools IS NOT REAL!

(emphasis in the original)

In his latest post, Rodda catches us up on what Forbes has been saying to sell his bill and, true to form, he’s lying, this time about who he claims is against the bill.

The first is Mr. Forbes’s implication that the ACLU is somehow at the forefront of the fight against his resolution:

“You know it’s amazing to me — we get groups like the ACLU that are fighting so hard against this resolution, and yet you know some of the things that they have fought to allow people to do and say which so undermines the strength of this country, but yet they’re right out there fighting saying that we don’t even want these words discussed — we don’t even want ‘em put out there for the American people to talk about ‘em and see ‘em, and you know, it just isn’t a lot of intellectual honesty that goes around.”

The ACLU? As far as I know, the ACLU has had nothing to do with the fight against this resolution.

But the ACLU is a favorite – and therefore easy – target for the Right, so why not another lie? After all the others, one more will hardly be noticed.

Dan Barton’s influential – and very short – book, The Foundations of American Government, purports to prove that the Founders intended America to be a Christian Nation ruled by Biblical principles through a combination of seriously warped interpretations, out-of-context quotes, and just plain invented “history”. It has been debunked by both legitimate history scholars and experts in religious history so often that it’s astounding there’s anyone left who doesn’t know how bogus this “information” is. Yet that is the version of history that Forbes wants to foist on the country’s educational system. By force of law, if necessary.

And at no moment do any of these clowns, from Bush to Barton, have a moment’s hesitation when confronted by facts. They believe what they believe and facts are what they say they are, even when they make them up. Despite overwhelming evidence that Americans don’t want a theocratic govt, they’re going to shove it down our throats anyway, even if they have to do it under the radar when we’re not looking.

They’re fanatics, and fanatics NEVER QUIT. Neither can we.

Written by Mick

February 8, 2008 at 12:19 pm

Stop the Bush Library – Anywhere

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The Bush/Cheney Administration is the worst in American history by any measure you can think of. The idea that $$$millions$$$ will be spent on a Library/Institute (read: Propaganda Center) to continue and even advocate for that appalling, horrendous agenda should be anathema to any institution of higher learning in the country, or to the country as a whole. It’s an abomination of the highest caliber, as if the citizens of Chile, freed from his dictatorship, would have to be continually wounded by an institution glorifying Augustus Pinochet’s rule of mass murder and social upheaval in perpetuity.

That the Bushes have tagged a well-respected Methodist university to be the site of a public relations nightmare glorifying the president who vociferously and unilaterally violated nearly every Methodist belief is bad enough. That he is to be allowed to do it at all – anywhere – is a travesty all its own. It means we will not be spared the arrogance and moronic elitist worldview of the Bushes ever. Their minions and flacks will be guaranteed a forum from which to shout their advocacy of torture, intolerance, authoritarianism, and the destruction of any feeling of community in the name of selfishness and greed that will make the depredations, tricks, and lies of the Heritage Foundation and American Enterprise Institute look like harmless pranks.

When Caligula finally died, ending his reign of terror, was his family allowed to found a school in his name justifying and even glorifying his ruinous imperium? Of course not. Yet we are going to allow George W Bush, the man who killed thousands of American soldiers and tens of thousands of Iraqis by starting a pointless war with lies and then kept it going with years of more lies, to build a monument to himself and his treachery on our soil – once democratic, American soil.

George W Bush didn’t just violate Methodist values during his presidency, he violated American values. Our values. Wholesale. He dumped on them as eagerly as a cheerleader dumps on the values of the opposing team. He thought – and thinks – no more of violating the laws passed by Congress than he would think of stepping on a passing worm. They mean as little to him as gnats on a summer evening – annoying little pests to be crushed between his fingers when they can’t simply be ignored.

Signing statements, refusals to provide information about anything, refusals to acknowledge let alone obey subpoenas, blanket statements that no Congressional committee has the power to stop anything he wants to do – the list is near endless. Outright lawbreaking followed by bland, categorical rejections of the 230-yr-old American belief that we are a country where not even the chief executive is above the law.

George W Bush is the opposite of everything we’ve ever believed we represented, and we’re going to let him build an institute to spread that gospel from sea-to-sea?

Stop the Library, and not just at MSU. For all our sakes, stop it period, now and forever, from being built anywhere on American soil.

How about Turkmenistan?

Written by Mick

February 3, 2008 at 5:36 pm

Posted in Bush Library

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