Daily Archives: May 28, 2004

Tax Cuts Responsible for Gas Price Hike

FITE Newsletter #27

Re: corruption, taxes, and gas prices

Remember all those tax cuts that “benefited American families?” Most American families saved around $450. But the gains have been more than erased by the more than $500 extra paid annually for gasoline and heating oil. Then again, they were already erased by increases in local taxes and fees in the same time period.

We have explained in previous newsletters how Bush’s irresponsible tax cuts and profligate spending caused OPEC to increase oil prices. But the price of crude is only one part of the story. Refiners are making the biggest profits in a long time, and a lot of that has to do with the fact that the Bush administration allowed 33 refinery mergers after the refineries dumped $3.5 million into Bush campaign coffers. The mergers translate into less competition and higher prices.

The refinery-Bush love fest will get even “better” if Bush is reelected because the new energy bill, providing some $25 billion in tax breaks, will likely pass after a Bush win.

Democrats Urge Bush To Act on Gasoline Prices

Reduce Demand for Oil…Money

Political chemistry lesson number one: whether it’s Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Texas or Washington, oil money and good government don’t mix. Arianna Huffington runs the numbers that reveal how our oil dependence is weakening our society and threatening our security—and comes out in favor of regime change here at home.

NEW TAX CUT LAW USES GIMMICKS TO MASK COSTS;

ULTIMATE PRICE TAG LIKELY TO BE $800 BILLION TO $1 TRILLION

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

Charles Palson

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US Empire: The Big Picture

Robert Jensen nails it. Rather than restating his points in my own words, I’ll fall back on my bad habit of extensively excerpting:

Republican politicians took potshots at House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi last week after she called President Bush “incompetent” and criticized his judgment and leadership. Her conclusion — “the emperor has no clothes” — understandably made Republicans angry, because it is so obviously accurate.

Pelosi’s remarks deserve scrutiny, but not because she was too harsh on the president. The lies and distortions that Bush and his top officials used to promote the U.S. invasion of Iraq were exposed long ago, and day-by-day the disastrous consequences of the occupation are obvious to all but the most fanatical of the Leader’s faithful.

But the problem is not just that the EMPEROR is bare, but that the U.S. EMPIRE has no clothes, and in that respect mainstream Democrats stand before the world as naked as the most reactionary Republicans.

…The modalities of control change, but the game remains the same; set the terms for the world economy and derail the possibility of independent development by any means necessary, with a gargantuan military on call when violence is required.

Nor do the differences in style and tactics make Democratic administrations any less imperial than Republicans. The Cold-War liberals of the Democratic Party had no greater qualms than Republicans about using the military to extend U.S. power in the Third World…

That pattern continues up to this day. We should not forget that for all the talk of Bill Clinton’s “multilateralism,” he launched an illegal attack on Iraq in 1998 and insisted on maintaining the harshest economic embargo in modern history on that country for eight years, which killed as many as 1 million Iraqis — policies that had virtually no support in the world. In short, Clinton killed more Iraqis than Bush as he ignored international law and world opinion. I doubt the fact that Clinton is smarter and more rhetorically gifted than Bush makes much difference to the dead in Iraq.

Neither Republicans nor mainstream Democrats seem capable of admitting that the invasion of Iraq was never about weapons of mass destruction, terrorist ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda, or creating democracy; it was simply an intensification of the longstanding U.S. project of controlling the strategically crucial energy resources of the Middle East. That project has gone on under Democratic and Republican presidents alike, taking different forms but always with that same goal of expanding U.S. power.

It’s not just the Iraq War that is immoral. The whole rotten project of empire building is immoral — and every bit as much a Democratic as a Republican project. When politicians from both parties offer platitudes about America’s benevolent intentions as they argue about the most appropriate strategies for running the world, we should remember this trenchant comment after World War I from W.E.B. DuBois: “It is curious to see America, the United States, looking on herself, first, as a sort of natural peacemaker, then as a moral protagonist in this terrible time. No nation is less fitted for this role.”

This analysis doesn’t mean voters can’t judge one particular empire-building politician more dangerous than another. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t sometimes make strategic choices to vote for one over the other. It simply means we should make such choices with eyes open and no illusions.

Here, I borrow phrases from Pelosi’s condemnation of Bush: “When are people going to face reality? Pull the curtain back.”

Indeed, Rep. Pelosi, pull the curtain back. You will see naked emperors, Republican and Democratic. You will see the cowardly legislators who chose to step aside before the war, when spirited opposition in Congress might have helped derail the disaster that is playing out in Iraq.

Pull the curtain back, and step in front of the mirror.

CNN outrage

Atrios notes (1, 2) the following outrage from CNN:

[Kelli] ARENA: Neither John Kerry nor the president has said troops pulled out of Iraq any time soon. But there is some speculation that al Qaeda believes it has a better chance of winning in Iraq if John Kerry is in the White House.

BEN VENZKE, INTELCENTER: Al Qaeda feels that Bush is, even despite casualties, right or wrong for staying there is going to stay much longer than possibly what they might hope a Democratic administration would.

I took his advice and sent a quick note to CNN. You should too.

To: Eason.Jordan@turner.com, kelli.arena@turner.com

From:

Subject:

Cc:

Bcc:

X-Attachments:

Dear Ms. Arena and Mr. Jordan,

Your comment on “speculation” that Al Qaeda thinks it has a better chance of “winning” in Iraq if John Kerry is elected is outrageous. If you want to report on speculation, at least focus on speculation with some real basis, like the compelling speculation that Bush’s violence has served as an ideal recruiting tool for Al Qaeda. Better yet, just stick to the facts. For starters, I suggest that you report on the following article about the relationship between the Bush administration and Al Qaeda:

http://newyorker.com/FACT/?020128fa_FACT

It’s by Seymour Hersh. In striking contrast to your network, he has a stellar reputation for credibility.

Sincerely,

Kerry Speaks

Well, I wondered where he was. Maybe he was listening.

Last night in Seattle (yes, we’re all waiting with baited breath to see if our own correspondent in that very city was lucky enough to see him and if we are, therefore, lucky enough to be able to expect a personal report on his appearance), Kerry delivered his first real speech in quite a while, and he centered it around national security, which he really needed to do. He sounded tough, which he needed to do. He threatened the terrorists, which he needed to do. He promised more reliance on negotiation and forging alliances, which he needed to do.

Alright. He did what he needed to do. He didn’t do what he could have done–talked like a statesman, talked about what it would cost, talked about why staying in Iraq was a good idea, how he expected to handle it, and what our part was. He says there’s more coming in the next few weeks; maybe he’ll address all those things then. But I doubt it.

I wanted to hear a statesman; I heard a politician. Maybe a good politician, but a politician nevertheless.

Let me now turn to a subject that I know is much on the minds of all Americans — the situation in Iraq. The stakes in Iraq could not be higher. Earlier this week, the president again said that he wanted to create stability and establish a representative government in Iraq. He did acknowledge what many have known all along; that we would be far better off if our allies were with us. What’s important now is to turn this late realization and acknowledgement from words into action.In the coming weeks, President Bush will travel to Europe and meet with members of the G-8 here in the United States. There will be speeches, handshakes, ceremonies. But will our allies promise to send troops to Iraq? Will they dedicate substantially more funding for reconstruction there? Will they pledge a real effort to aid in the transformation of the Middle East? Will they in fact become part of the stakes that are at large for all of us? That is what we need. But the day is late and the situation in Iraq is grim. Attracting international support in a situation like Iraq is a clear test of presidential leadership; it is what capable and confident presidents do. It is its own statement about this administration’s failed approach that they must so constantly be so urged to change that approach, and that they do so only reluctantly and at the last minute.

It is time for President Bush to make a sustained effort, and he should start at the summit at Istanbul by persuading NATO to accept Iraq as an alliance mission with more troops from NATO and its partners. (Applause.) He should seek help in expanding international support for training Iraq’s own security forces so that they can safeguard the rights and the well-being of their own people and allow them to come out into the streets and take part in new freedom. And he should propose the creation of an international high commissioner to work with the Iraqis in organizing elections, drafting a constitution and coordinating reconstruction.

A lot of this is what Bush is claiming to do anyway. Except for a stronger UN role, what’s really different here? He renews the old Carter pledge to lessen our reliance on foreign oil by funding options–and we know how far that’s going to get with the Pubs in charge of the Congress. Anyway, it’s an empty promise, with or without the Pubs; he has to know people wouldn’t sit still for the expense unless he convinced them there was a good reason, and he seemed to be assuming they already knew it. Maybe his audience did, but out here in Realityburg we want to see gas prices go down NOW, not watch our money flow down the spout of pie-in-the-sky ‘alternative investments’ that may pay off twenty years after we’re dead.

The high-falutin’ statesman-lite-like language will play well down here; so will the criticism of Bush which was sharp without being nasty.

More than a century ago, Teddy Roosevelt defined American leadership in foreign policy.He said America should walk softly and carry a big stick. Time and again — (interrupted by applause) — time and again this administration has violated the fundamental tenet of Roosevelt’s approach. As Roosevelt described it, if a man continually blusters, if he lacks civility, a big stick will not save him from trouble. (Applause.)

And that is precisely what this administration has ignored. They’ve looked to force before exhausting diplomacy; they bullied when they should have persuaded. They’ve gone it alone when they should have assembled a whole team. They have hoped for the best when they should have prepared for the worst. They’ve made America less safe than we should be in a dangerous world. (Applause.) In short, they have undermined the legacy of generations of American leadership, and that is what we must restore, and that is what I will restore.

All that is well and good and we like it, but the rest of the speech is short on specifics, especially about Iraq. Is he going to commit more troops? Sounds like it. Probably necessary. So, John, where are they going to come from? He promises them the equipment Rumsfeld short-changed them on; OK, where’s the money going to come from? Pubs can get away with vague promises undefined and without substance; Dems can’t, not when it comes to national security. And the tax-cut/increase bugaboo is going to have to be faced sooner or later.

Still, it was a good speech, forceful and even poetic at times. It’s only a beginning but it’s not a bad one and there are months to go for him to flesh it out in. But people down here are going to be a lot tougher on him that they are on Junior: they’re going to want answers to those questions I posed and a whole lot more, and he better be ready to convince them that Junior’s patented cliches aren’t good enough when he answers them. To do that, he’s going to have to lead before he’s elected.

Junior’s a lightweight. Kerry can blow him off the map, but only if he’s more JFK than Dukakis; more FDR than Mondale. He has to come across as a statesman rather than a politician, and whether he can do that is still unclear.