Goodenough Gismo

  • Gismo39
    This is the classic children's book, Goodenough Gismo, by Richmond I. Kelsey, published in 1948. Nearly unavailable in libraries and the collector's market, it is posted here with love as an "orphan work" so that it may be seen and appreciated -- and perhaps even republished, as it deserves to be. After you read this book, it won't surprise you to learn that Richmond Irwin Kelsey (1905-1987) was an accomplished artist, or that as Dick Kelsey, he was one of the great Disney art directors, breaking your heart with "Pinocchio," "Dumbo," and "Bambi."



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Comments

sleipner

Frankly in my opinion Iraq was lost the moment we started it. Bush and his advisors was too stupidly convinced of their own Christian superiority and the inferiority and gullibility of those silly Moslem heathens that they could not possibly generate a winning strategy.

Frankly I think Reid's move is long overdue, though that's most likely due to my frustration at a Fundapublican controlled majority run amuck. In actuality, his timing is perfect, attack when the elephant is limping and bleeding from multiple wounds, and when your pack is filled with starving wolves.

I think this move, especially if they manage to maintain the momentum, is precisely what is needed to revitalize the depressed and desperate Democratic majority in this country.

Adam

Bush and his advisors was too stupidly convinced of their own Christian superiority. . . .

Um, like Paul Wolfowitz? I don't have a high opinion of Bush's intelligence, but I do of his cabinet.

It saddens me that liberals have ceded their idealism on foreign policy to the right. For the love of God (or whoever), the Bush adminstration is trying to plant democracy and human rights in a place that has very little. For the sake of the Iraqis, let us not declare the patient dead while it is still struggling.

Bush may be not so bright, he may be a corporate whore, he may be fiscally irresponsible, he may engage in divisive social conservative theater, but--to me--his foreign policy is his saving grace. It may have been unwise from a pragmatic standpoint to enter Iraq--I don't the have the expertise to say one way or the other--but at least he was aiming to do something very good and very beautiful--namely to give a volatile region a chance for freedom. (Maybe it really was all for oil. But you can have more than one goal. And there is such a thing as enlightened self-interest.)

Thus, I think we need to give Iraq our very best shot. We need to give it our all, not only for our sake, but for the sake of millions of Iraqis.

If the Democrats use such a strategy--and it works--imo, it will demonstrate what Bin Laden has been saying all along: that we're weak, selfish, spoiled little brats.

Yeah, so maybe the adminstration misled us into war--then take them out into the public square and give them a lashing. But to think that deception somehow justifies us saying, "tough shit" to the Iraqis and withdrawing against their will is just plain wrong. If the Iraqis want us gone, let's get the hell out of there. But if they think we're doing more than good, then we owe it to them to give them the support they need, if they're acting in good faith. I'm all for coordinating a timetable for withdrawal with the Iraqis if they so desire it, but let's not be a nation of myopic and petulant children who only cares about its own future.

If we are doing more harm than good, as some claim, then let's get the hell out of there. But I really don't see how political commentators (with their unavoidable biases) can have a better handle on the sitation than the Iraqi government. If we really were worsening the insurgency, I think the Iraqi government would give us the boot. And they may. But let them do the booting.

I will up your rhetoric, amba. If the Democrats realize the consequences of such a strategy-- and do it anyway--I'd use the e-word: evil.

But for all my bluster, I don't think I am all that concerned. Most of the top democrats seem committed to a responsible withdrawal.

Adam

Pun not intended concerning Bush's "intelligence." (We all know the intelligence on Iraq was a little "off" :-))

Adam

To clarify, I'm not so sure if I oppose the secret session--it was about intelligence after all. I don't necessarily oppose Bush being lashed, I just reject the non sequitur that Bush lied to us, therefore we must immediately pull out of Iraq.

I really wish I could vote Labour.

mary

The session is legitimate. We were promised a second report on intelligence failures that dealt with the administrations connection to them. The Republicans have tried to break the promise.

Also if you think that a functioning system arises from democracy you have ignored neo liberal theory. The concept is that you need a functioning system, one with reduced cirruption, clear rules and clarity. From that market economics can develop and from that democracy.

Attempts to use votes as a way of rebuiolding society have failed hundreds of times including multiple times in many third world countries.

As for building a viable system this was our choice:

http://amconmag.com/2005/2005_10_24/cover.html

It is almost certain that this degree of corruption is impossible to eradicate. It means no functioning system.

Perhaps the Iranians will strengthen things out, but unlike you I don't think that handing them Iraq will be a great victory. Which is essentially what we've done.

Tom Strong

I think Reid is just playing politics. And while I know you have criticized Bush in the past for never rising above politics, at the same time, it is what politicians do. To expect them to rise above politics on occasion seems appropriate, but to expect it every week is probably unrealistic.

The true masters, the Churchills and the Roosevelts, are able to seem like they're rising above the game while they're still playing it. But they are a rare breed.

michael reynolds

Reid played it beautifully. Good for him both politically and morally. The Senate leadership refuses to do its duty and get to the bottom of the causes of this war, now they may have to do so, and it's overdue. So good for Harry.

And Frist's own artless thuggery set the stage for this kind of maneuver -- if you start threatening to change whatever rules happen to get in the way of your own agenda, if you dispense with the tradition of comity and collegiality, you cannot squeal when the other side plays the same tough game.

As for Democrats and the war: although I agree that a precipitous withdrawal is likely to be disastrous, this opposition may focus administration minds on the job at hand: developing a strategy to win. The White House is manifestly incapable of honestly appraising its own performance, and refuses to consider alternatives. They need to be poked with a sharp stick.

When the White House is lost in a haze of denial and evasion, when they attack every critic, refuse every suggestion, deny the plain truth, fail to come clean, repeat old lies, reward failure and punish honesty, they make it impossible for anything but confrontational tactics to be employed.

The Bush administration has brought this on itself, and if the result is a collapse of will in this war the blame will lie squarely with George W. Bush.

amba

Actually, Michael, I agree with much of that. My objection is less to what Reid did than to what it announces: a Democratic midterm election strategy of exploiting and deepening public dissatisfaction with the war, which can only make losing more likely -- and leave the hawk card in Republican hands.

As a matter of fact, I don't blame the public for losing faith in the war -- I blame the Adminstration for that, too. The war was dishonestly sold and then badly executed -- how can you expect people to stay mindlessly behind you when you deceive and condescend to them and waste their money and their children's lives? Even so, to abandon Iraq to bloody civil war between caliphascism and ayatollahcracy is a double crime against our own safety and the Iraqis' that it looks like we are more and more bound to commit.

amba

And then, the two sides, the two parties, will have colluded perfectly.

Tom Strong

Adam, you may be interested in this post at tpmcafe about liberal internationalism. I'm with you in feeling sad that our foreign policy choices seem to be between the neocons' america-first hubris and the neoliberals' reactionary isolationism. But I do think there are better options out there.

Tom Strong

And then, the two sides, the two parties, will have colluded perfectly.

How terribly accurate this statement might look in a few years.

Adam

Are you sure that this means what you think it means, amba? Can't the Democrats simultaneously blast the adminstration and propose a solid way forward in Iraq so that all the lives lost and money spent will not be for naught. Can they really go all the way on this when Clinton, Biden, and even Kerry support a more responsible withdrawal?

I think it would be treating the public as children if somehow you get them to think that being deceived somehow absolves America of its responsibility to do what needs to be done. However, some like Sleipner illustrates, seem to get over that hurdle by assuming that we were screwed to begin with and that the patient is dead, so why don't we just leave right away rather than prolong the inevitable.

I don't know Sleipner, but don't you think it's wrong to declare the patient dead before it's clear? Our soliders and the Iraqis bet everyday that you're wrong. To me it's unclear, and I just have to bet on the side of hope.

Rather than appealing to the public's sense of betrayal, I wish the Dems would appeal more to the people's sense of honor, duty, and justice.

amba

Here's a fascinating quote from the TPMcafe post Tom linked to above. This is by "liberal internationalist" and Princeton professor G. John Ikenberry:

I think liberal internationalists emphasize the wider set of tools that democratic states can employ to transform autocratic and other backward states. President Clinton’s several big speeches from the 1990s on how to engage China provide all the key liberal insights about how trade, openness, reform, the rule of law, and democracy are related in a way that can transform China and East Asia. Bush’s theory of democracy promotion is quite crude by contrast. Again, the Bush administration has borrowed in a highly selectively way from liberal internationalism – and it is getting them into trouble. What is striking is that liberal internationalists are much more optimistic that the "forces of history" – capitalism, economic development, global integration, democracy – are pushing and pulling the world in the right direction. Bush-era neo-cons seem to believe that the U.S. needs to use force and strike quickly lest the moment of opportunity passes. Liberal internationalists believe that the key is to keep the democratic-capitalist world order stable, growing, legitimate, and well managed – which takes American leadership, strategic restraint, and commitment to rule-based order. If the core is thusly organized, the forces of change will move the world in our direction.
Adam

Thanks, Tom. I probably fall between the two categories of liberal interventionism and liberal internationalism. I believe it is important for America to do its utmost to lead the international system rahter than oppose it, but in the case of Iraq, somehow I feel uncomfortable letting my moral impulses be checked by France, China, and Russia especially when they have shady oil-for-food deals with Saddam.

I have a strong quixotic streak. I was really embarrassed when amba recently blasted neo-conservatives and new agers for trying to remake reality. I actually have sympathy with both those groups.

However, when push comes to shove, I do have a pragmatic side. Ideally, the two should work in concert in a person--the idealist providing the energy and the vision, and the pragmatist keeping one grounded.

Well, looking at myself, I guess it's a good thing that you have to be 35 before you can become president!

amba

Adam,

You shouldn't have been embarrassed. I just think if you're going to try to remake reality, you'd better take a good hard look at the reality you're trying to remake. There was plenty of information and advice available to the Bushies ahead of time about the ethnic divisions and the religious conflicts and trends in Iraq. They chose instead to project their fantasy, as if on a blank screen. If they'd faced reality, maybe they would have been intimidated out of acting. I, like you, like to think they might rather have acted much more effectively.

More and more, though, it looks like remaking Iraq by force was in reality a project so unlikely to succeed that only a fool would take it on.

Adam

While I like the quote from Ikenberry, what do you do when an entire region is stagnant and is breeding people who will fly planes into your buildings?

Saddam was not a guy that you could hope would gradually liberalize. And he had sons that would continue his thuggery. And what if the international system is itself corrupt, as the oil-for-food scandal revealed? I'm all for using the international system, but when a region is stuck and stagnating and when international organizations are corrupt, sometimes you've got to use force to get a region or a country "unstuck." It might have been more sensible to let the inspectors finish their job, but at some point--after a period of gradual escalation--if Saddam still refused to cooperate, I think war was the only way to go. You can't let crazy men ignore the UN and the world community for ever. It sends a horrible message.

Sometimes war is necessary. The neo-cons were trigger happy, no doubt, and had no small degree of hubris. But rather than the "feckless photo-op foreign policy" of Clinton (McCain called it that), at least they did something. Probably my youth is speaking. I have trouble restraining my impulse to try to fix something if it's within my power.

sleipner

The problem with your philosophy, Adam, is that MANY places in the world are as bad or worse than Saddam was. Why there?

The only reason is because Bush & co managed to manipulate public sentiment and fears into supporting his vendetta. Oil and revenge, those are the reasons we now have over 2000 dead soldiers and from some reports, 100,000 dead Iraqis. Is that worse than what Saddam would have done in the past 2 years to his people?

Regarding "ceding the hawk" to the Republicans, I personally think in the 21st century we have many options other than blowing people up to get things done. If you look at the state of Iraq prior to the invasion, our sanctions had weakened Saddam significantly, and totally destroyed his capability of waging war on any of his neighbors. Sanctions HAD ALREADY WORKED. All we had to do is wait for the inevitable power shift, which would likely have occurred with far fewer deaths, and certainly far less American expense.

In addition, the war was a horrible mistake in the total destruction of the American reputation it caused throughout the world. We are a laughingstock, and Bush is the head clown.

China could potentially view our invasion as justification for them to invade Taiwan. Iran and North Korea both see it as a reason to grow their military and build nukes to "protect themselves from American Imperialism." Terrorists around the world have increased their numbers in droves to combat the immediate threat of aggressive American expansionism. And the White House has used the "terror alert" to manipulate the media whenever criticisms of their administration threaten to reach the front page.

The world is worse off in many different ways due to the Iraq invasion, and better in none.

amba

You've got a point there, Adam. The "forces of history" were penetrating China, but not the Middle East.

Tom Strong

Adam,

I think you're presenting something of a false dilemma. Liberal internationalists supported the Afghanistan efforts; indeed, many of them supported the invasion of Iraq too, back when it was about WMD. A good number of them supported deposing Hussein the first time around. And just to clear this up, despite my abiding skepticism about the current war, I do think we need to do everything in our power to leave Iraq stable and free.

But your question about the "international system" is a good one, and the heart of the disagreement I think. I don't think there's any denying that the UN is plagued by corruption problems, and that the incestuous ties between the aforementioned nations and Iraq were a problem. And yet at the same time, I think the PNAC/neocon/Bush approach to reckoning with this corruption has been an utter failure.

And what's worse, despite constant spin from the administration and its supporters, it's been a failure by their own damn standards. They sought to consolidate American power; instead, they are boldly demonstrating to the world how divided and weak we are. America has not looked less powerful than it does right now in a long, long time.

lmeade

My god, Annie, your original post to this thread was put perfectly! Absolutely perfect!

lmeade

Careful this article doesn't cause your brain to explode, Tom Strong.

Tom Strong

lmeade,

Read it; no mental conflagrations to report.

Adam

Regarding your first argument, Sleipner, it seems to me that you're arguing that if we can't "liberate" all nations who need liberating than liberating one isn't worth it. Like what's the point of saving one life if you can't save them all. To me, there was a confluence of reasons to invade all of which contributed to reaching the necessary threshold. The tyranny of Saddam was one, our dependence on foreign oil was another, and our strategic goal to transform the middle east was another. I think Bush believed in the reports of WMD but was planning on invading anyway and so didn't scrutinize them fully and was happy to sell the war on whatever would sell best. However, I don't think Bush was motivated to avenge his father or something silly like that. After all, Bush "Sr." chose not to invade. If anything, W. was unhappy with his father's choice and wanted to "finish the job." As for oil, I recall seeing a French journalist on Charlie Rose saying that if the Americans only cared about oil, they would have dealt with Saddam just like Russia, France, and China did.

I think America both wanted oil and a more humanitarian regime.

Certainly, in the short term, the war has cost us in many ways. But it has also provided benefits in many ways as well: Libya, Lebanon, Syria, Saudi Arabia, etc. Each side can point to positive and negative effects. Sure France may dislike us more, but they never liked us much to begin with. Besides France cooperates with us on Syria and other issues.

So really, I don't think it's clear what the results of the invasion will be. I think Amba's point was that it was immoral to try to force failure in Iraq for political gain. I just don't think it's at all honest to proclaim that it is clear one way or the other. It's unclear, and it's in the interest of everyone to see Iraq to its best conclusion. Why can't history read, "While Bush got us into Iraq, he handled it miserably. Yet Democratic pressure and Democratic leaders were able to influence the process and bring it to a victorious conclusion."

So Sleipner, give the complexity of the situation, it just doesn't seem honest to consider it a foregone conclusion. After all, the Shiites are cooperating with us. At one point, Al-Sadr was taking up arms against us. Most of the population supports us and the government seems willing to make concessions to Sunnis when push comes to shove. They changed the rules at the last minute and allowed the Sunnis to participate in the original drafting even though the Sunnis declined to participate in the last election. In the recent referendum, the Sunnis seemed willing to participate in the political process. If they continue to do so, it may actually work out. After all, the Sunnis have a strong motivation to cooperate. If we go, 80% of the country has some scores to settle. I mean, Jesus Christ, how can you render the democratic aspirations of the vast majority of the Iraqi population and the tentative signs of Sunni participation at naught?

It's true that the sanctions did weaken Saddam. But that seems to me a pretty cold conservative line. Well, the Iraqis are starving and suffering under sanctions but they can't harm us, so let us just leave them like that for decades. I've heard estimates of Iraqi deaths around 30,000. I'm not sure of the deaths under Saddam. But you've got to look at it from a long-term perspective. Some times things have to get worse before they can get better. We lost a whole lot of people during the civil war, but in the end the benefits outweighed the costs. At this point, we don't know the long-term outcome, therefore we cannot ascertain whether we made the right decision to invade Iraq or not.

As for false dilemma, maybe I am presenting one. All I'm saying is that we needed to deal with Iraq in some shape or form at some point. Don't you think that at some point if Saddam refused to cooperate, we had to either invade or send the message that UN resolutions don't mean much. I think Bush escalated way too quickly, but after all, Saddam was disobeying resolutions for years. Seriously, what do you do with a madman that runs a country?

You could argue that before the war the Iraqis could only look forward to more of the same in perpetuity, whereas now, they have a chance for a fresh start, they have hope. And I really do think that while the overthrow of Saddam has many complex effects, some good and some bad, I really do think it sends the message that change is in the air in the Middle East. This guy needed to dealt with at some point. He had a clear chain of sucession. (Okay, maybe the sons would fight each other, but again that's civil war.) Anyway, you slice it, Iraq had a dismal future in store. This way, Iraq has a chance for a fresh start and our presence prevents or hinders the outbreak of civil war. If we weren't there, do you really think there would be any cooperation between the ethnic groups? Don't you think the majority Shiites would be slaughtering Sunnis? And who knows what crazy stuff the Kurds would be pulling?

The invasion was a major gamble and perhaps a stupid one. But it offers a chance for a new Middle East and it is imperative that we give it all the help we can, rather than just killing the project for partisan reasons.

But really Bush's attempt here was very liberal in the classical sense. It was an affirmation that human rights and values are universal and that Muslims too could live in a modern democratic society. I might give Bush a big smack for being dumb, but at least his heart is in the right place.

Bush hatred should not kill what makes liberals shine: namely their starry-eyed idealism and compassion for all people.

Trust me, I don't have a soft spot for poorly-spoken conservative loyalist oil tycoons. I just think people need to clearly separate their feelings for Bush from what we do in Iraq. And don't forget that the chimpster has some smart people working for him, and that even a stopped watch is right twice a day. Bush actually has done some things right in Iraq. Namely, ever single political goal has been reached on time. They voted on time and the constitution was written on time. From what I hear, we have a very talented ambassador working there. Besides, I really don't see what other strategy we have. We don't have more troops and other nations aren't particularly interested in helping us. (I know some offers have been made but without the details I can't say ...)I'm just asking people to consider that maybe the Bush co. aren't as big of fuck-ups as everyone assumes they are or that maybe most of the major Bush's screw-ups are behind him. Chimps are pretty smart animals. I know it's a crazy idea, but hey.

Adam

In regard Afghanistan, some have argued that attacking Afghanistan was the proportionate expected response. In attacking Iraq, we really showed we meant business. Besides, Afghanistan is on the fringes of the middle east. I'm not sure how much of an effect that would have by itself on the broader middle east. It's not even Arab. After all, Turkey hasn't had much of an effect on the Arab world either. It is also possible that we would be facing a much larger insurgency in Afghanistan without the Iraqi invasion. A jihadi has to go somewhere (sure, the iraq war has been good advertising, but 9/11 really announced war on the part of radical islam against us. As Blair likes to point out, there were a lot of terrorist attacks prior to Iraq. And there have been terrorist attacks in countries that do not support the invasion.)

I really don't know, but the situation is complex enough that I've just got to hope and pray that it all works out. At the very least, give the Iraqis and the Afghans the resources they need so they have a fighting chance.

As it stands now, the Iraqis WANT our help. We invaded them, goddammit, so we owe them help, at least for a few years. How can we turn our backs on them if they desire our aid?

Adam

Misread your post a little, Tom. I agree that Bush has not done a good job with the UN. I guess my major point with Bush foreign policy is that it may not be all darkness and stupidity. Clinton was a bit of a wuss, and Bush is a cowboy. This is why we need a centrist party. We need wussy cowboys running the government!

sleipner

I don't buy the assumption the the US is mandated to be judge, jury, and executioner for corrupt and nondemocratic regimes worldwide, we totally usurped the UN's prerogative and went against the will of the international community to invade a sovereign nation that was in no way worse than dozens of others worldwide.

The attempt to describe Bush's invasion of Iraq as being "Liberal" is truly laughable - it is about as far from liberal ideology as it is possible to get. The concept of telling someone that they have to do things the way *I* want them to because my morals and values are more correct than yours follows the conservative line to a T. I also definitely do NOT buy that the real reason was to "spread democracy" - these people don't do anything unless there's money in it.

I also don't buy that the Iraqi's want us there, the increasingly deadly insurgency they are protecting is evidence of their dislike for the American presence. Personally I think they may have a better chance of succeeding if we start pulling out as soon as possible and transitioning control of Iraq over to Iraqis.

As it stands, nationalistic Iraqis can perceive only one way to get their country back from the Americans - burn them out - since Bush has refused to even suggest such a thing will ever happen in a reasonable timeframe.

Of course with all the debt we've forced on them to fix the country we destroyed for them, their economy will be pretty much held hostage by the multinational conglomerates for decades.

Adam

All sunshine, sleipner, aren't you?

Sleipner the insurgency is less than 1% of the population and Sunnis about 20%. I'm sure the Iraqis aren't particularly pleased to have us there, but neither do they desire us to go--pragmatic tolerance if you will. I was using the POPULARLY elected Iraqi government as a proxy for the Iraqis' will. The opinion polls I see indicate that the Iraqis have mixed feelings on our being there.

I think it very morally suspect to equate the desire of the insurgents with the desire of the Iraqi population as a whole. Don't the 80% Kurds and Shiites mean anything to you? One part of the insurgency is nostalgic for the Ba'ath party and the other wants to establish a fundamentalist caliphate across the Muslim world.

Jesus, sleipner, democracy is merely a particular instance of consent of the governed. I don't consider a government legitimate unless it has this consent. If most were happy under Saddam, I would agree with you. But they weren't.

Yeah, in some technical sense sense Iraq was sovereign. But hardly could you consider that we're imposing our values on them. The Iraqis could refuse democracy or they could craft a non-democratic constitution. Al-Sistani supports it. All democracy really does is allow the people to choose how they're governed. Democracy need not take an American form or have Western human rights built into it. We're really letting them choose what they want. Sure we pressure them, but if the Shiites or Kurds rejected it, we would have no chance in hell imposing it. If Gandhi could kick out the British, the Shiites could easily kick us out and establish a theocracy if they so desire it. Sistani himself indicated that it was inappropriate for clerics to hold office.

And besides, we pressure them mostly on human and women's rights. God forbid that we impose our values on them and prevent them from stoning women and killing gays! Talk of imposition of values is pretty damn close to acceptance of relativism.

Man, you really seem to think that Bush is pure evil. He may be dumb, he may be selfish, but I really do believe there is goodness is him.

All I can say is if my family were being tortured and my sisters raped, I'd be very glad that you'd be respecting my dictator's sovereignty and upholding an international system that is profiting off my misery.

As I said before you really seem to be saying if we can't save one life, we shouldn't save any. Certainly, the fact that Iraq had oil upped the likelihood of invasion. But don't be so sanctimonious about oil. Our entire economy demands it. Wouldn't you pissed at a president that didn't try to secure cheap oil and instead let the economy fall into decline and depression? Desiring oil is just practical--it's not evil. And as I said, if all we wanted was oil, we would have happily cooperated with Saddam all along. We would have let him invade Kuwait and just have dealt with Saddam like France and Russia and China were doing.

I hope you think that moral reasons were partly behind our entering World War I and World War II. Why is it so hard to believe that the US might have actually had some noble intentions in invading Iraq? Do you think the first Gulf War was all about oil, too?

Your cyncism just kills me. I don't think Bush's motives were lilly white, but I don't think they were scarlet either. Things are not black and white. It's a rare man who is wholly evil.

I also don't buy that the Iraqi's want us there, the increasingly deadly insurgency they are protecting is evidence of their dislike for the American presence. Personally I think they may have a better chance of succeeding if we start pulling out as soon as possible and transitioning control of Iraq over to Iraqis.

And why is your opinion more informed than the Iraqi government's? Seriously, I think the Iraqi population would disagree with just about everything you said. No one desires to live under a cruel dictator in poverty and everyone desires some say in how their government is constructed.

All I'm asking is for you to just CONSIDER that the situation may not be as black-and-white as you claim.

Adam

Finally, your position just seems so cold and heartless and willfully self-deceptive.

Seriously, if Bush was pure evil why would a black female academic from Alabama desire to spread his foreign policy far and wide?

Arrogant, definitely. Stupid, probably, but evil--no way. I don't think Bush's foreign policy is perfect, far from it. I'd probably give it a C-. But you seem to be giving it a 0. Can you say anything good about Bush at all?

amba

Those crazy Kurds. Don't get in their whey.

amba

Sleipner, Adam: Actually there have been a lot of recent reports of Iraqi citizens cooperating with US and Iraqi forces and turning in insurgents. I quoted some of those a couple of months ago but am too tired to go find the link!

sleipner

Adam - you're probably right in that my utter hatred for this president colors my opinion of some of his policies. Frankly I hate him far more than I've hated anyone else in my life, and think that he has done more harm to our country and the world than all of the 20th century presidents combined. Almost every single thing he's done in his presidency is antithetical to my worldview and beliefs. I'll agree that he's more stupid than evil, but I believe many of his advisors are pure evil (Cheney, Rove, Rumsfeld), and they're the ones with their hands up his ass making his lips move.

In regards to Iraq I think that now that we're stuck in this quagmire we have to try to at least leave some semblance of order behind us when we go, but I think we MUST set a timeline and start withdrawal soon, otherwise the Iraqis will assume we intend to stay for good and continue to blow us and innocent civilians up. I also still have sincere doubts about whether or not the country can sustain a democracy, I suspect everything will descend into civil war no matter what once we leave - the Kurds and the Shi'ites will want to keep all the oil money from their regions and try to secede, and the Sunnis will object militarily to being thrust suddenly into poverty.

There is absolutely no doubt in my mind (and hasn't been from day one) that invasion was incredibly stupid, motivated by greed, and doomed to likely failure.

The "if we can't save them all we shouldn't try" excuse doesn't work with me. An easy rebuttal to that is, think of all the good we could have done spending that $200+ billion on worldwide aid programs to Africa and other needy countries instead of shooting mostly innocent civilians? We could have saved and improved hundreds of millions of lives for that amount, and possibly brought several failed economies into self-sufficiency. Darfur has far more horror occurring there than Iraq had, why not there? Iraq was a bad choice, motivated by greed and petty revenge.

Regarding oil, rather than continuing to harp on the need to constantly increase our supply (and hence the oil companies profits - a constant theme in this presidency) we should be spending money on several viable renewable resources that don't destroy the environment, such as wind and solar. Instead we get an energy bill that's a huge tax break for oil companies that are screwing people with price gouging and bringing home record windfall profits, and does extremely little on green energy except push hydrogen, which is still in its infancy and is decades away from truly challenging oil (which is I'm sure why it was chosen).

Adam

Sleipner,

I would much rather have Tony Blair rule us from abroad than have this dude do his thing. I have trouble hating this president because he is SO amusing. He just can't speak.

I don't think he is a bad person, but I think he is incurious and is isolated from the nation's problems. And this leads him to blithely support pork-barrel spending, corporate welfare, and environment destruction. His social conservative stunts seem very Rovian and just embarrassing.
But despite all this, no matter how hard I've tried, I just remain convinced that the invasion of Iraq was a good and necessary thing. Maybe if I were a Mid-East expert, I'd feel differently.

You make a good point about helping in Sudan and in Africa. However, Bush and Blair did agree to give aid to Africa and forgive a great deal of debt at one of those G8 summits I think. We also gave a lot of money during the Tsunami. As for Sudan, well there's really no good excuse. However, the UN and Europe and the Africa Union are equally to blame. You don't see France leading a "coalition of the willing" to help out in Darfur.

However, if we actually do manage to put in place a stable government in Iraq, and it has ripple effects, and thus leads to millions living in greater freedom and prosperity, it may be worth it. We just don't know the long-term effects yet. Saddam could have been in power for decades to come.

Also, we have been giving aid to Africa for a long time. Money just can't be thrown at things.

I also think there is something to be said for democracy reducing terrorism over the long haul. Then, if conditions suck, they can blame their government instead of some American-Zionist conspiracy.

I think we MUST set a timeline and start withdrawal soon, otherwise the Iraqis will assume we intend to stay for good and continue to blow us and innocent civilians up.

But Sleipner, the Iraqis can kick us out whenever they want. If we pull out before the Iraqi goverment wants us gone, what kind of message does that send? That America blows up Muslim countries and then packs its bags when it feels like it? Unless there are strong countervailing reasons, if the Iraqis want our help, I feel we should stay. While we're there, we serve as a check on Shiite animosity towards Sunnis, and we also send the message that the Sunnis better cooperate. I just think it is more likely that the three groups will get along if we're there knocking heads. Who do you think forces concessions from the Shiites to compromise with the Sunnis? That's what our ambassador has been doing tirelessly for weeks-on-end.

BTW, I think hatred is bad. I remember reading a quote by Mandela in which he remarked that at times he would feel his anger boil at the white man but realized it was bad for his soul and for his country. I think it is possible to be firmly opposed to evil without hating the evildoers.
Look at Gandhi and MLK for instance.

sleipner

The total amount of money we give in aid to Africa and all other countries combined is a paltry pittance compared to what we've spent on the war.

In addition, most of the spending we give is limited to military aid and crisis management, not construction and development, and often it ends up in the hands of US corporations or dictators anyway. I read a Sci Am article recently talking about what it would take to move many 3rd world countries out of their spiralling poverty loop, and the cost, though high, was easily within the reach of the rich countries of the world. I'd highly recommend reading it, I think it was in the 9/05 issue, but not certain.

We lack the political will to give, however. We, and especially the Republicans, seem to feel that people are poor because they're stupid and lazy, not because their culture, region, or economy castrate their chances of ever improving. Even in our own country, people on welfare and disability are seen as opportunistic freeloaders, and many seem to think we should chop them all off just because there are a few that are playing the system.

Your own comments about forgiving debt and tsunami relief suggest that that's enough. However, forgiving debt does little when they have nothing to pay it off with anyway, and disaster relief does little to fix the region's problems in the long run. Neither situation does anything to address the root cause of those countries' financial problems.

Comments about "continuing to throw money at the problem" merely reinforces the American belief that we as a country already give enough, and then we point to the continuing poverty and oppression as proof that our (pennies worth of) money didn't do anything yet, so why bother giving any more?

Regarding the ripple effect of Iraq, I think it unlikely that one struggling attempt at democracy that will likely be suffering civil unrest at best, and likelier war for years to come could possibly take even a chink out of the hatred that our president's bungling stupidity and pigheadedness has multiplied a hundredfold within the Arab world.

I agree that hatred is bad, and it takes a LOT to get on my list, but this administration has pushed almost every single one of my buttons. I will not be happy until the Fundapublicans are finally revealed for the hypocritical greedy crooks that they are.

Adam

Are you sure about this? I would count debt relief as money given.

I agree, Sleipner, that the problems in Africa are in many cases due to culture and corrupt government. But how do you fix corrupt governments? Well, one possibility would be overthrow them and try to build a functioning democracy there :)

I've read some things by black libertarian bloggers that suggest that aid can actually be damaging if it's not given properly. For instance, if we give them a bunch of free clothing how can their textile factories compete with free? We probably also should stop giving subsidies to our farmers because when we give subsidies we're basically harming the ability of third world countries to sell their food. Growing food is one thing a third-world country can do.

Besides, from what I understand, Bush cooperated fully with poverty relief in Africa and even Bono praised Bush for it.

Poverty is a complex problem that I think requires a combination of ideas from right and left. For instance, I oppose affirmative action but believe we need to fund schools more equally. In other words, we need to attack problems at their source rather than just sustain people off the governments' money.

As Jon Stewart said to Jon Edwards recently [paraphrasing], "Why do we always have to choose between a bloated, ineffecient welfare system and a minimalist radical free-market system?"

In my view, liberals help so much that they kill self-reliance and conservatives just don't care. You need to provide people with equal opportunity but they need to understand that success or failure is their own responsibility.

Government programs can create a cycle of dependency and a sense of victimization if they're done wrong.

Besides don't you realize that Bush has presided over huge increases in welfare spending? Many conservatives are pissed at this. With the medicare drug benefit, he has presided over one of the largest expansions in the welfare system in a long time. And many felt that his Katrina relief plan was more reminiscent of FDR than Reagan. Basically, Bush spends like a liberal but cuts taxes as well. Pretty irresponsible.

As for Iraq, I'm much more optimistic than you. Time will tell.

Adam

The first question was are you sure that we've spent more on Iraq than on aid?

amba

Sleipner, if you think our pulling out of Iraq is going to bring an end to the "insurgency," you've got to read this letter, purportedly by Ayman al-Zawahri, Osama bin Laden's Egyptian right-hand man and strategist, to al-Zarqawi the beheader, head of al-Qaeda in Iraq. Read it! Some think the letter is a fake (my post on it has those links as well), and I have no doubt that you will join them reflexively. If it is a fake, it is one hell of a fake, and I doubt that al-Zawahri is really preaching its opposite. The letter says, kicking the Americans out of Iraq (getting them to cut and run) is just Step One. Next, the Shiites . . . then we establish the caliphate, and we keep on fighting the enemy (us).

Tom Strong

Per this site, US total development assistance reached $18B in 2004, and was about $55B from 2001 to 2004. This might not account for everything, but it's clearly not close to the Iraq expenditures.

I'm going to confess to being confused and frustrated enough with this issue that I want to wash my hands of it. Everyone seems to have access to some knowledge that completely contradicts the other side. It's baffling.

Tom Strong

Sorry, by "this issue" I meant not aid - though that's baffling enough - but the merits and demerits of the Iraq occupation.

sleipner

The Iraq war has tallied what, $200 billion so far? In 2003 according to:
http://cfrterrorism.org/policy/foreignaid.html
(no clue as to veracity, I google'd it), we spend 11.4 bil per year in economic assistance and 4.3 bil for peacekeeping operations. Of this money, $2.1 bil went to Israel (who really doesn't need it), $2 bil to Egypt, $540 mil to Colombia (mostly used to combat drugs), Jordan $250 mil, and the remainder is spread around. Much of the aid is targeted strategically towards reducing terrorism and spreading American influence, much less of it has anything to do with truly improving those nations.

During the Reagan years, aid spending reached $27 billion, mainly to counter Communism.

Other countries, despite their much smaller size and economies, give almost as much as us. Aid only (not counting military), Japan gave 9.7 bil, Germany 4.9, UK 4.7, and France 4.3 bil. By percentage of GNP, the top donors were Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, and Sweden. The Netherlands alone gave 3.2 bil.

Totally agree that money has to be given properly for it to do anything other than enrich scoundrels. Unfortunately much of what has been done to date was improperly done, which lessens even the meager effect our pittance could have accomplished

The promises Bush made to increase aid in Africa are fairly minor, unlikely to do much except crisis management. To truly change anything we would have to actively invest in improving the countries, not just send a few more boatloads of grain to help the starving people make it another few months. The adage about "teaching a man to fish" holds incredibly true in these nations - again I urge you to check out that Sci Am article, they said all of this far better than I.

The reason why debt relief is not the same as giving money is that it's all paper shuffling. The governments in question never see that money, it's just subtracted from a bank ledger somewhere. It is useful, and can help the country along, but does little in the short term to cause improvement.

Regarding the increase in welfare spending - if you look at who the money is going to it is almost all the insurance and drug companies - the people receiving benefits, the amount of benefits they receive, and their out of pocket costs have not improved measurably, and in some cases have declined.

Re your comment, "Why do we always have to choose between a bloated, ineffecient welfare system and a minimalist radical free-market system?" - I totally agree - would be great to have an efficient system that took care of the people that needed it. However, using bloating and inefficiency to discard the entire system and toss people into the gutter is not the answer - instead, fix the system.

I also agree that there has to be limits on how much we help or we kill self reliance. However, I think that currently the number of people who receive help is way lower than those who need it - just look at the millions of homeless, many of whom were cast out of the state-run mental facilities when they were closed due to lack of funding...umm...back in the 90's I think.

Designing our "help" programs better would be a great way to start. Closing some of the "baby income welfare mother" loopholes is one way, and all of those "welfare to work" training programs help a lot too. I don't want to just hand people a free life, I want to give them the means of surviving in a world which is becoming increasingly difficult to navigate.

I tend to favor investment into educational and infrastructure programs more than direct aid - give them someplace cheap they can live, give them the means to get a job, give them cheap childcare so they can afford to go to work, give them decent public transportation systems that can get them to work. Those are the sorts of things that can make people into useful members of our society, instead of just sucking up welfare.

One of the biggest problems currently is that a lot of unskilled jobs are being rapidly outsourced to countries with pay rates 1/50th of ours, and the education system (currently being stealth-dismantled by the Republicans) is doing very little to teach people the skills and abilities they will need to survive in our evolving economy.

The only way to stop this hemorrhaging is anathema to the Republicans - we have to try to make corporations stay here. Or at least make outsourcing less attractive somehow, either via the carrot, the stick, or some combination of the two.

I don't think we should prevent it in all cases, in many cases it makes a lot of sense for everyone, because there is just no way to economically compete. However in other areas, where the difference is much slimmer, a little governmental push could nudge the companies into staying.

I was reading something that said that 3.5 million manufacturing jobs have left the country since 2001. Those jobs are the bridge between unskilled and skilled labor - with those disappearing the gap between the haves and the have-nots will continue to widen.

Sorry I went off topic & wrote a book, but I got riled up - been reading too many leftie blogs recently ;)

amba

just look at the millions of homeless, many of whom were cast out of the state-run mental facilities when they were closed due to lack of funding...umm...back in the 90's I think.

'80s.

Tom Strong

And 90's (at least here in the ATL).

Adam

Yay, Sleipner! We agree on something. I have no problem providing money where it's needed especially into education. However, the problem with the Dems is that they're basically teacher union whores. I oppose vouchers--I think we need one strong educational system; however, we need to be able to fire bad teachers and the NEA seems to oppose any sort of accountability. I went to a decently-funded public school, but almost every single teacher I had had a serious teaching defecit. So I'm a big fan of teacher accountability. I think teacher's wages should be tied to their kid's performance. But in a fair way. Does a kid improve or not in a teacher's class, and by how much? We probably also need to pay them more to attract better teachers. But just throwing money at the problem as Democrats are wont to do (let's buy a bunch of fancy computers but leave the same inept, incompetent teachers in place!) or (let's demand improvement but not pay more as the Republicans are wont to do) are half-solutions. The no-child-left-behind act was one of the few bills of Bush that I liked. Hell, Ted Kennedy co-sponsored it. It may not be perfect, but actually I trust Republicans more with education than I do the Democrats--at least the moderate ones. After all, China and India and Romania are able to produce to brilliant grads on the cheap--that's because they have high standards. There's no way to improve education if your teachers suck. (Actually, I wouldn't have a problem outsourcing teaching! Pipe in some great Indian teacher over the internet and hire someone cheaply to keep the kids in control while they interact with the teacher. We need to be good Taoists and flow with globalization and not oppose it.)

Tom, as for Iraq, well that's because the situation is complex! I characterize my position on Iraq as that of hopeful uncertainty.

Adam

Tom,

But to ramble on, I think it is important to distinguish between the different factions of the insurgency. The nationalists may just want us gone and will stop fighting if we go. The terrorists won't stop. The Ba'athists won't stop. And nationalists may become terrorists or Ba'athists. And the nationalists may still keep fighting after we go because they seek more Sunni power. So, on the one hand, it's totally like duh, the fighting will continue when we go--that just flows from the stated goals of the main factions of the insurgency. However, by staying there, we are likely pissing off Sunnis and helping insurgent recruitment. But if we go, we might help recruitment because everyone likes to join a winning team. So it's complex. My feeling is that the ethnic groups are more likely to cooperate if we're there. We keep the Shiites from killing the Sunnis, and we force the Shiites to let the Sunnis in the government.

Besides Arab sentiment is a bit baffling. First they hate us because we prop up dictatorships. Now they hate us because we're taking down dictatorships. Huh? But I forget that we're still propping up the "Zionist Enemy."

It never ceases to amaze me that Jews and Muslims dislike each other so much. I mean they both follow similar dietary laws and they both are strict monotheists. Christians are the pig-eating, man-worshipping heathens, after all.

sleipner

Hrm...I agree that teacher accountability is important, and that many teachers really do suck. However, one of the reasons is because they are in a thankless, extremely difficult job with fairly low compensation, and many competent people really don't want to go through the hassle.

Plus the first 2 or 3 years of teaching is pure hell - my roommate went through it, there is SO much to learn, and the stress level of dealing with 30 kids is huge. The dropout rate of new teachers is huge.

Tying teacher salaries to their kids performance is somewhat unfair, since performance of children is more linked to their family's economic status usually than to their teachers. Tying it to improvement between years might be better, but still has problems.

In addition, the sole use of multiple choice tests as a measure of improvement is bad, I think, since it measures only one limited form of intelligence and ignores the more important aspects such as critical thinking and writing ability, which are often ignored in the "teach the test" mode teachers have been forced into by No Child Left Behind.

And the reason I don't trust Republicans on education is that they consistently seem to either cut education spending, or they tie the hands of educators by tying strings to all the cash they approve.

And yet again your "don't throw more money at it" comment suggests that we're way overspending on education, when in fact the education system is horrendously underfunded. It is an inappropriate comment to make when school systems in many areas scrape by using ancient textbooks and deteriorating buildings, with overstuffed classrooms. When art and music programs, and sometimes sports programs are cut because the budget can't cover them. It's utterly disgraceful.

Incidentally, your idea about Indian teachers is already occurring - there's some internet tutoring service I read about that uses teachers in India.

I realize a lot of what I'm talking about would increase national spending, and would probably require raising taxes. However, America has BY FAR the lowest tax rate of any industrialized nation. And it shows - in our piss poor education system, in our kicking mental patients out onto the streets, and in our labelling of people in trouble who need help as lazy freeloaders.

Adam

But Sleipner, I stated several times that I was IN FAVOR of spending more money! I think we should spend more money on education and am not opposed on other things.

It just needs to be spent in the right way. I was just saying that, imho, Democrats often run the risk of throwing money at things because they don't demand that things work! They don't demand accountability.

Trust me, psychologists are smart enough to figure out ways to tell whether a teacher is helping or hurting their kids. Just use fancy statistics to control for the socioeconomic background of the kids. Basically while I believe in a single education system (no vouchers), it needs to be run like a business. Increase starting salaries, but make firing and hiring much easier. Demand excellence and pay for it.

Basically, all our money spent needs to be evaluated for efficacy. If a program is not working cut it. But then maybe try a different program for the same problem. While it's true that more money may be needed to evaluate a particular program, we need good reason to think that the money will actually help before spending more.

I think liberals reflexively scream, "More money, bigger government," while conservatives scream the opposite.

I'm in favor of sweeping budget cuts in some areas, and massive increases in others. But above all, it must work. And nothing can be tested without accountability.

I don't really trust Republicans either on education--I oppose vouchers as I mentioned. However, a moderate Republican can do what's necessary and doesn't have to worry about losing campaign contributions from the NEA. I'm a pretty big fan of the Governator, for instance. (I'm sure you're not a fan, but your reflexive distrust of Republicans and his tepid stance on gay rights probably did him in for you. What can I say--people differ.)

Bottom line: this is why I am a centrist. Both parties are pretty incompetent. You can argue that Dems are better than Reps--but I tend to think that a government ruled exclusively by Democrats might be just as corrupt as the one we have now. It's hard to imagine, but I'm sure Gingrich is pretty shocked at what has happened to the orginal Republican ideals espoused in the Contract with America. You know the line about power corrupting.

sleipner

Definitely agree that both parties are pretty incompetent - I think one of the reasons why Clinton's presidency was so effective is that the Senate and House were controlled by different parties, so they had to compromise with each other. Each side chopped off the worst of the other's follies.

Pretty much agreeing with you on the rest, though I still think the reticence to throw money at a problem usually ends up in having NO money spent on it, as evidenced by our education system. Plus having No Child Left Behind increase costs astronomically while providing little to no funding to offset that cost is truly irresponsible. I'm sure if Kennedy had known that would happen he wouldn't have submitted the idea.

Adam

Good point about reticence to spend leading to spending NO money at all.

Well, lah-dee-dah Sleipner--we agree!--and to think I had pegged you as a die-hard leftie.

But it's a little hard to avoid that impression when you declare your undying hatred for our Lord Chimp. Thanks for listening to me and not pegging me as a far-right loon-toon. Good chat. Best to you.

sleipner

I like to think that my lefty tendencies are at least slightly moderated by inquiry and intelligence. I certainly have a lot more desire to balance the budget - but I would admit to definitely being a tax & spend democrat. You have to invest a sufficient amount in a system for it to not break down, and who else is going to do it but the government?

Certainly the way to go is NOT to make faith-based charities the only option for the poor and helpless, as Bush would have us believe. Come and be saved along with your soup and magically somehow your life will be fixed...or at least you'll freeze to death comforted by believing your soul will go to heaven.

I would not that your description of Bush as "our Lord Chimp" should tell you something about your own estimate of his fitness for office.

If he were in a job he was almost capable of, such as assistant manager of a McDonalds, I would have no more than minor annoyance at receiving a big mac instead of a grilled chicken sandwich, but that is, alas, not the case.

Adam

LOL! Sleipner, the "Lord Chimp" thing was a joke--mainly.

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