Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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March 21, 2006
By: Zachary Roth

RE-WRITING HISTORY I couldn't help noticing something about one of Bush's responses at his press conference this morning. Asked about FEMA trailers that were left sitting unused in Arkansas after Katrina, he said:

"The taxpayers aren't interested in 11,000 trailers just sitting there. Do something with them," Bush said. "And so I share that sense of frustration when a big government is unable to, you know it sends wrong signals to taxpayers."

So it's not that the White House was incompetent and uninterested. It's that the government's too big. That's the problem.

The White House has decided, it seems, that the only way to salvage anything from this whole Katrina mess is to use it as a way to further discredit the idea that government can provide people with anything of value. As if any "big government" would have screwed up as badly as Bush's did. We've seen this tactic used before, of course, but Bush's famous rhetorical clumsiness makes it particularly unsubtle here.

In a funny way, it's the same thing that Bush's new conservative critics Bruce Bartlett, Andrew Sullivan, et al. are doing by focusing on the growth of spending under Bush. It's not conservatism that's the problem, they're saying. It's that Bush isn't really a conservative at all, he's a big-spending liberal.

Many people smarter than me have pointed out how stupid this is. Sure, Bush has frequently departed from pure conservative ideology, but what that suggests is that he's an unprincipled, Nixon-style political operator, interested principally in maximizing his own power. It doesn't make him a liberal.

This is important in the long-term, because if the lesson of the Bush years becomes that Bush failed because he didn't hew closely enough to core conservative principles, I shudder to think about what the next Republican president's going to do.

Zachary Roth 5:47 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (95)

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Comments

Where have we seen the tactic- perhaps it was too "subtle" for me the first time around?

Posted by: Don P. on March 21, 2006 at 6:00 PM | PERMALINK

Duh, Kevin.

Posted by: MK-Republican on March 21, 2006 at 6:02 PM | PERMALINK

So it's not that the White House was incompetent and uninterested. It's that the government's too big. That's the problem.

Which is correct. Right now unions control the government and make it impossible to fire incompetent workers like those who caused the Katrina disaster to happen. If unions were eliminated in the government Bush would be able to fire those resposible for what happened in New Orleans and make sure it never happens again.

Posted by: Al on March 21, 2006 at 6:16 PM | PERMALINK

OT, but technical problems kept me from posting to an earlier thread.

Is the NSA doing "data mining" (as Kevin Drum and others seem to think) or is it actually wiretapping - i.e., listening to phone calls (as I believe) without a warrant?

The distinction is critical.

Data Mining is not per se illegal (though it may lead to significant privacy concerns). It's merely the manipulation of data to discover patterns, trends, relationships.

It's how and where the data was acquired that makes it legal or not.

Wiretapping - monitoring phone calls - without a warrant is illegal.

I've always believed that the NSA has been actually monitoring phone calls without a warrant. It may also be using data mining to sift for likely targets. But the key issue is that they are monitoring communications.

This WaPo article seems to back the wiretapping theory. Bush even bragged about it.

(Thanks to firedoglake.)

Posted by: Libby Sosume on March 21, 2006 at 6:18 PM | PERMALINK

Very well put, Zachary.

Posted by: Bill on March 21, 2006 at 6:18 PM | PERMALINK

Hey Al, Why don't you go fuck yourself you fucking ignorant asshole?

Posted by: angryspittle on March 21, 2006 at 6:37 PM | PERMALINK

interested principally in maximizing his own power. It doesn't make him a liberal.
That is exactly what makes him a liberal.

Posted by: conspiracy nut on March 21, 2006 at 6:40 PM | PERMALINK

Then there's the fact that the trailers themselves were a half-assed solution to a problem that could've been fixed more easily with housing vouchers. But that idea was rejected because... it smacked of "big government."

...unions control the government and make it impossible to fire incompetent workers like those who caused the Katrina disaster to happen...

As I recall, most unions endorsed the firing of the incompetent worker responsible for the disaster, back in the 2004 election. But the incompetent worker won anyway.

Posted by: Grumpy on March 21, 2006 at 6:40 PM | PERMALINK

Zachary Roth wrote: ... what that suggests is that he's an unprincipled, Nixon-style political operator, interested principally in maximizing his own power.

Nixon said "I am not a crook".

Bush looks the American people in the eye, smirks, and says "Damned right I'm a crook! I'm robbing you blind, robbing your children and their children blind, all to enrich myself and fellow crooks like Dick Cheney and our cronies and financial backers in the military-industrial-petroleum complex, and there's not a damned thing you can do to stop me!"

When Nixon said "I'm not a crook", journalists investigated and found out that he actually was a crook, and the Congress (including members of his own party) did the right thing and took the steps towards impeachment that forced Nixon to resign.

When Bush thumbs his nose at the American people and engages in sneeringly blatant corruption and criminality, bought-and-paid-for Republican shill corporate-owned so-called "journalists" prop him up with fatuous obsequious bootlicking and the utterly corrupt Republican leadership of the Congress aids and abets Bush's criminality.

That's the difference between Nixon and Bush.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on March 21, 2006 at 6:43 PM | PERMALINK

"...f the lesson of the Bush years becomes that Bush failed because he didn't hew closely enough to core conservative principles..."
Why not? That's the received RW view of the elder Bush's downfall ("Read my lips..."). But they may not be in a position anymore to impose that story.

Posted by: Dabodius on March 21, 2006 at 6:44 PM | PERMALINK

Zachary Roth wrote that Bush is "interested principally in maximizing his own power. It doesn't make him a liberal.

conspiracy nut replied: That is exactly what makes him a liberal.

Sure, because no conservative ever, ever, ever does anything to acquire or increase political power.

See, that's why conservatives refuse on principle to run for election to any government office -- you'll notice that there are never any conservative candidates in any election. Also, no conservative will ever, ever accept any appointment to any government position -- you'll notice that Bush has had no choice but to appoint leftists and liberals to political positions in the Executive Branch, and had to appoint two leftist liberal judges to the Supreme Court, because only leftists and liberals would accept such a position of power.

conspiracy nut is unbelievably stupid.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on March 21, 2006 at 6:51 PM | PERMALINK

What "next republican president"? The only way they will be able to win again is cheat extensively. That would be cheat by more than 5 percent of the voting public. Americans have about had enough of republicans and conservatives.

Posted by: MRB on March 21, 2006 at 6:55 PM | PERMALINK

conspiracy nut is unbelievably stupid
But not stupid enough to believe that the small government proponents want more power than the big government proponents.

BTW, I had some brocolli for supper last night, are ya proud of me?

Posted by: conspiracy nut on March 21, 2006 at 6:55 PM | PERMALINK

Many people smarter than me have pointed out how stupid this is...

The big vs. small government argument is stupid; size does not correlate with capability or efficiency.

Dem's should be be promoting "good government" and make size a non-issue.


p.s. Ironic that conservatives are promoting "small is beautiful".

Posted by: has407 on March 21, 2006 at 6:56 PM | PERMALINK

Silly Zachary. Of course conservative principles are good and superior to whatever else is out there. It's the flawed execution of those principles that causes these enormous cock-ups.

I think that George W. understands that he has lost substantial support in the Conservative intellectual community, and his phrasing indicates that he needs to gain back lost ground for the good of the Movement.

Personally, I can understand why Movement conservatives like Will and Kristol are targeting George W. All of this silly, wasteful government spending is just another example. Without government to fall back on, the people on the Gulf Coast would have made better preparations to deal with the oncoming disaster. They relied on government to help them instead of relying on themselves.

George W. made his mistakes by not making things like that clear enough at the outset of his presidency, and by not upholding the good conservative principles that he professed to follow.

Posted by: Grace Shrup_ on March 21, 2006 at 7:02 PM | PERMALINK

I think that Re-Writing History is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what the Republicans will do to stay in power. Look, we have an election in 2006 where many Republicans are up for re-election. I really do believe that all politics are local. I think the idea of making the president look incompetent and not as a betrayer of conservative values is brilliant in that it allows those up for re-election to "oppose" him and look like outsiders and keepers of the flame to the local yokels at home. I would really love to hear what these politicians are saying when they return to their home states. Perhaps we should listen in. I hope I am not being a conspiracy theorist but this smells of Karl Rove. I have always believed that Bush was/is just a front man for the reactionaries in power.

Posted by: JS on March 21, 2006 at 7:09 PM | PERMALINK

"It's that the government's too big. That's the problem. "

Actually, check all the human caused catastrophes in history, and you will see this as the most common cause.

Someone will say, oh, but what about Uganda, or Sudan, or some other nonsense. These small government countries have other problems, which are not necessarily solved by bigger government either. And, yes, there are countries that do need bigger government.


Posted by: Matt on March 21, 2006 at 7:11 PM | PERMALINK

In a similar vein, I was reading one of the conservative blogs yesterday (The Corner, perhaps?) and read a piece by a commentator who said that the lesson he learned after three years of the Iraq War is that (paraphrasing) "the federal government can't be trusted to do things right." As if all of the incompetence and corruption and mendacity and cruelty and failure of the war were not the result of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and their fellow Republican gang of thieves, of the people in charge, but of some abstract magical entity called "the federal government."

The sheer audacity of refusing to take any responsibility, to try to shift the blame from the people in charge to the organization they control without ever acknowledging that they actually control it, really does take your breath away. It's like a drunk driver crawling out the car he's just driven into the ditch and saying "the lesson is, cars are unsafe." No, asshole, the lesson is that dangerous drunks like you shouldn't have been given the keys in the first place.

Posted by: Stefan on March 21, 2006 at 7:12 PM | PERMALINK

Why is it so hard for the liberals to understand that the structures of the government that the Democrats created during the last century were bound to ultimately fail, as they were designed by corrupt followers of an unworkable ideology? Why do they jump up on their chairs every time the President or some other rational person points out this simple fact?

Posted by: tbrosz on March 21, 2006 at 7:12 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, check all the human caused catastrophes in history, and you will see this as the most common cause.
You can start here: Death by Government

Posted by: conspiracy nut on March 21, 2006 at 7:13 PM | PERMALINK

Duh, Kevin.

Posted by: MK-Republican

What are the chances that a commenter who missed that a post was written by a guest columnist is a Repub-troll? 99.5%?

Posted by: ogmb on March 21, 2006 at 7:14 PM | PERMALINK
Actually, check all the human caused catastrophes in history, and you will see this as the most common cause.

I think there are exactly zero instances of catastrophes caused by government being "too big", per se, though there are plenty caused either by government doing bad things or failing to do good things that other governments in similar situations would do. The latter -- the omission -- could be caused by government being "too small", since that could make it unable to do the good thing it should have done, but the mere size of a government doesn't compel it to do bad things, though it may enable it to do bad things that a smaller government could not do. As the size does not cause the bad action, it is not the cause of the resulting catastrophe.


Posted by: cmdicely on March 21, 2006 at 7:14 PM | PERMALINK

Grace Shrup_: It's the flawed execution of those principles that causes these enormous cock-ups.

Do I hear Marx's ghost?

Posted by: has407 on March 21, 2006 at 7:15 PM | PERMALINK

"The taxpayers aren't interested in 11,000 trailers just sitting there. Do something with them," Bush said. "And so I share that sense of frustration when a big government is unable to, you know it sends wrong signals to taxpayers."

Oh, if only there were someone in charge of that big mean government, someone like, say, a President, who could tell that big government to do something with them!

Meanwhile, poor George is condemned to sit there, idle and powerless, waiting for someone to do something, sharing our frustration, feeling our pain....

Posted by: Stefan on March 21, 2006 at 7:15 PM | PERMALINK

When it comes to trailers for displaced persons, Bush is a spectator, watching a "big government" he is powerless to control, or even, apparently, influence.

When it comes to spying on us, he's Captain Midnight, Captain of Our Ship, the one man he can trust to get things done! No pesky regulations for him, when it comes to spying on people who might be talking behind his back!

But what if a plot were discovered, something that might result in another terror attack and Bush becoming Our Hero again. Well, then it would be back to Clueless Bureaucrat 101- "Nope, can't do anything without a warrant! Guy's related to the bin Ladens, and you know how tight they are with the Bush clan."

It's almost as though he was a puppet who would do anything he was told.

Posted by: serial catowner on March 21, 2006 at 7:17 PM | PERMALINK

Until all youse donkees learn that big government is bad youse will keep being beaten like a ...well Drum.
BTW the biggest gooberment bureacracy is the pentagon so its nice to see good ol boy George doin' his darnest to see that it gets nuked by a cruise missile fired from a sub. Either that of plane bombed again. You rock Georgie!

Posted by: professor rat on March 21, 2006 at 7:19 PM | PERMALINK
In a funny way, it's the same thing that Bush's new conservative critics Bruce Bartlett, Andrew Sullivan, et al. are doing by focusing on the growth of spending under Bush. It's not conservatism that's the problem, they're saying. It's that Bush isn't really a conservative at all, he's a big-spending liberal.

This is all easy to understand. The big-government right-wing authoritarian conservatives fooled a bunch of small-government libertarians into thinking "conservative" meant "libertarian" and that everyone was either a small-government "conservative" or a big-government "liberal".

So when they realize that Bush isn't a small-government libertarian, the only word in the narrow, dichotomy-oriented minds for what else he could be is "liberal".

Of course, this is stupid. But then, so is people who are supposedly politically aware supporting the Republican Party as they openly pander to theocrats and expecting them to govern as small-government libertarians, and acting surprised when they turn out to be big-government authoritarians.

Posted by: cmdicely on March 21, 2006 at 7:22 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely:

I think there are exactly zero instances of catastrophes caused by government being "too big", per se, though there are plenty caused either by government doing bad things or failing to do good things that other governments in similar situations would do.

History is full to the brim with ghastly examples of what governments that had too much power have done. I can't believe you could even write a statement like that, unless by "big" you mean something completely different, like how large the government buildings are.

Posted by: tbrosz on March 21, 2006 at 7:22 PM | PERMALINK

they were designed by corrupt followers of an unworkable ideology?

I don't know, tbrosz. I wouldn't call them corrupt, only that they were devoted to flawed ideas.

Why do they jump up on their chairs every time the President or some other rational person points out this simple fact?

No one likes to hear that their guiding beliefs and philosophies are wrong, harmful, or, as you put it, unworkable in the real world. This applies to social and economic ideology as well as religion. No religious person likes being told that their faith is a bunch of hooey.

Posted by: Grace Shrup_ on March 21, 2006 at 7:23 PM | PERMALINK

BTW, Grumpy, "housing vouchers" presume that houses exist where you are trying to shelter people. That's the point of shipping in trailers.

Posted by: tbrosz on March 21, 2006 at 7:26 PM | PERMALINK
History is full to the brim with ghastly examples of what governments that had too much power have done.

Yes, and none of those acts were caused by them having too much power. Power, by definition, is the freedom to act; how that freedom is applied is the source of any wrong that results, as an agent than is free to act as it wills is also free to refrain from action.

Now, I'm not arguing that prudent citizens wouldn't choose to restrain government power to prevent the possibility of bad uses of power; I'm saying its an error to characterize the degree of power as the source of the wrong.

I'm also not arguing that there aren't kinds of powers that it is wrong, in and of itself, for government to have, regardless of the overall degree of the governments power.

I can't believe you could even write a statement like that

Causality, I see, escapes you.

Posted by: cmdicely on March 21, 2006 at 7:27 PM | PERMALINK

Sometimes I wonder if we're getting too stupid to breathe.

The British Empire did not fail because it was too big. In fact, it became rapidly socialistic as it met grave challenges, and this combination of big government and socialism made the small island people great.

The British Empire, if it ever even existed in the form most people imagine, dismantled itself in a regular and parliamentary fashion, devolving former components into countries that are mostly democratic today.

Saying that a government fails because it's "too big" is like looking at a truck and saying "That'll never work- it's too big".

Posted by: serial catowner on March 21, 2006 at 7:28 PM | PERMALINK

LOL, serial catowner - do you really need a deatiled explanation for the differences between (a) dealing with a huge, immovable bureaucracy when it comes to trailers for displaced persons and (b) cutting through all that red tape and yucky things like Courts when it comes to spying on us?

Posted by: Don P. on March 21, 2006 at 7:29 PM | PERMALINK

Saying that a government fails because it's "too big" is like looking at a truck and saying "That'll never work- it's too big".

By any measure the United States government is the "biggest" in the world in terms of its budget, military power, global reach, etc. To say that a government is inherently evil or unworkable because it is "too big" would be to assume, therefore, that the US govt. is worse than the governments of, say, Sudan or Iraq or Sierra Leone.

Posted by: Stefan on March 21, 2006 at 7:31 PM | PERMALINK
This is important in the long-term, because if the lesson of the Bush years becomes that Bush failed because he didn't hew closely enough to core conservative principles, I shudder to think about what the next Republican president's going to do.

Actually, I think an honest and generally competent, fiscally responsible, small-government libertarian -- one kind of "conservative" Bush gets bashed for not being frequently -- would, though they'd do lots of things I'd disagree with, probably be a lot better for the country than Bush has been.

OTOH, an honest and effective firebreathing theocrat -- another kind of "conservative" ideal Bush is occasionally chastise for falling short of -- would, quite possibly, be even worse than Bush.

Posted by: cmdicely on March 21, 2006 at 7:33 PM | PERMALINK
By any measure the United States government is the "biggest" in the world in terms of its budget, military power, global reach, etc. To say that a government is inherently evil or unworkable because it is "too big" would be to assume, therefore, that the US govt. is worse than the governments of, say, Sudan or Iraq or Sierra Leone.

Which conclusion would arguably be quite correct of the present US government, notwithstanding that it is founded on a completely bogus premise.

Posted by: cmdicely on March 21, 2006 at 7:34 PM | PERMALINK

Don P, you are actually the most clueless troll I have ever seen. Actually more like a kind of bot responding to the fact that a post has happened, without actually even reading the post.

I never imagined there could be a kind of "stupidity basement" where only the dumbest trolls are found, but surely you are in it.

It's a distinction of a kind...I guess.

Posted by: serial catowner on March 21, 2006 at 7:35 PM | PERMALINK
In a similar vein, I was reading one of the conservative blogs yesterday (The Corner, perhaps?) and read a piece by a commentator who said that the lesson he learned after three years of the Iraq War is that (paraphrasing) "the federal government can't be trusted to do things right." As if all of the incompetence and corruption and mendacity and cruelty and failure of the war were not the result of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and their fellow Republican gang of thieves, of the people in charge, but of some abstract magical entity called "the federal government."

Yeah, there is this pervasive apparent belief on the Right that the government exists literally as a thing independent of the people in government. While, of course, this is often a useful fiction in law and elsewhere, its just that -- a fiction. Then again, the same people seem to confuse symbolic acts, like flag burning, with actual real and substantive attacks on the country, so their whole ability to separate symbols from concrete reality may be defective.

Posted by: cmdicely on March 21, 2006 at 7:39 PM | PERMALINK

But sure- let's belabor the point- to spy on us illegally was a complicated tedious process that undoubtedly has cost us millions of dollars, and could have been avoided by sending a lawyer to the FISA court with a handful of briefs.

In contrast, distributing the trailers probably could have been done by telling people they could have one if they came and got it. I'll bet they would have been gone in about three days.

So, you can probably guess which task Bush found too hard, and which one was easy.

Posted by: serial catowner on March 21, 2006 at 7:41 PM | PERMALINK

History is full to the brim with ghastly examples of what governments that had too much power have done. I can't believe you could even write a statement like that, unless by "big" you mean something completely different, like how large the government buildings are. Posted by: tbrosz

Our "big government" which is actually smaller than when Bill Clinton took office because of reduction made during his tenure, didn't cause Katrina. And "big government" didn't fail in of itself in the response to the catastrophe It is well-documented that the failings of the government during and after Katrina can be placed at the feet of a relative handful of officials, starting with Bush.

Anything big can be slow and cumbersome. However, saying out of hand, as do folks like T-Bone and Al, that big government doesn't work is horseshit and they know it.

Posted by: Jeff II on March 21, 2006 at 7:41 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely:

I don't accept your attempt to merge the ideas of "power" and "freedom to act," unless you're talking about lack of restraint.

The entire point of our Constitution was to strap government down, and allow citizens the maximum amount of freedom. The ideal constitution is one that tells what government may do, and what citizens may not do, and it should be a very short document. Given the evidence of history, in any given situation, I tend to prefer solutions that do not concentrate more power in the State.

Almost every large scale atrocity in the last century was committed by a highly-centralized government that was not accountable to even its own people. In theory, I suppose, a "good" emperor could accomplish a lot. In point of fact, there have been damn few "good" emperors.

Your argument that it isn't the government power that actually causes the abuse is a bit lame. The connection between the two is so obvious, that I'm amazed I have to try and explain it. Did you check out the link CN posted? The author there has done the math.

Posted by: tbrosz on March 21, 2006 at 7:43 PM | PERMALINK

Gave me an example when big government has done something right.

Posted by: Don p. on March 21, 2006 at 7:46 PM | PERMALINK

Don P./Charlie's not precisely clueless. In many states, abject insanity is a defense for terminal stupidity. Really!

cn: Dictionary Boy, either look up the spelling of the green vegetable or stop fucking telling the same joke every 20 minutes. Your mental repertoire is so limited your skull is concave.

Stef: Oh, if only there were someone in charge of that big mean government, someone like, say, a President, who could tell that big government to do something with them!

It's no kind of analogy, but when I read this I was reminded of drunk, crazy Nixon sadly telling Al Haig, "You fellows in the military know what to to in these situations. You put a pistol in the drawer and leave them alone for half an hour. (Sigh) I don't have a pistol." Two of America's greatest fuckups, so sadly misunderstood, so underprivileged, so helpless in the face of evil.

Posted by: shortstop on March 21, 2006 at 7:47 PM | PERMALINK

It's a funny thing- if you say that big business is screwing us, one of the things they tell you is that it's not because business is BIG. No-sirree-bob, no reason to limit the size or monopolistic nature of a business, nothing wrong with big per se.

In fact, in business, bigness is usually regarded as a sign of success. Because, as we all know, the bigger business is more likely to keep adequate inventory, invest in modern product, and have the depth to support the product.

Did I get that about right? Or is having a good product now a bad thing, because everything's changed since 911?

Modern life. So confusing.

Posted by: serial catowner on March 21, 2006 at 7:49 PM | PERMALINK

That's a big government definition of insanity I do not reconize it.

Posted by: Don p. on March 21, 2006 at 7:50 PM | PERMALINK

Do I hear Marx's ghost?

No, has407. If Karl Marx was alive or undead, he would be ashamed of how much harm his ideas have caused the world and of how weak people have become because of a big government nanny-state.

I won't go as far Don P. and say that government is good for nothing, but there are plenty of examples where excessive government involvement has caused harm.

Posted by: Grace Shrup_ on March 21, 2006 at 7:51 PM | PERMALINK

And getting to the original point, I believe that centralizing too many functions under one security agency, including FEMA (which was itself a centralization of old civil defense procedures), is looking like a big part of the problem. The blame for that is widely spread, but I think it goes back to the unfortunate tendency of the government to want to create a "czar" or a huge new agency, whenever a problem arises.

Heck, politicians and others even use the term "czar," as in "energy czar," without any apparent discomfort. Do any of them remember what the word actually means?

Posted by: tbrosz on March 21, 2006 at 7:51 PM | PERMALINK

OMG, he's done the math!

Well, I just hope he used a condom.

Posted by: serial catowner on March 21, 2006 at 7:51 PM | PERMALINK

tbrosz: History is full to the brim with ghastly examples of what governments that had too much power have done.

As has been noted above, history is also full to the brim with ghastly examples of what too little government has done. Or do you prefer feudalism?

Posted by: has407 on March 21, 2006 at 7:53 PM | PERMALINK

Tbrosz, you are competing with DonP tonite. Not a good thing.

The entire point of our Constitution was to EXPAND the powers of the central government. They had just tried the small government alternative, and found it didn't work very well.

Do they even teach history any more?

Posted by: serial catowner on March 21, 2006 at 7:55 PM | PERMALINK


Clearly it was poor planning on the shrubs part as to what response was best. We have all seen and dicussed at length the briefing shrub got from brownie and the nat. weath. service. The buck stops with shrub. He was warned and did NOTHING. Australia just got hit by a major cyclone and we offered help. We were turned down they had their military helping out. Gee what a novel idea. Use a part of the gov. that is prepared to move large amounts of equip very quicly to help. Oh thats right they are a bit preoccupied

Posted by: imbroglio on March 21, 2006 at 7:56 PM | PERMALINK

serial catowner:

It's a funny thing- if you say that big business is screwing us, one of the things they tell you is that it's not because business is BIG. No-sirree-bob, no reason to limit the size or monopolistic nature of a business, nothing wrong with big per se.

Bill Gates badly wants me to buy his software. I can choose to tell Bill Gates to go to hell, and go with Linux, OSX, and alternatives to Microsoft.

I can't tell even the lowliest local city zoning official to go to hell if he wants me to do something, never mind the rest of the government.

That's the difference. Only one of these entities has a gun. You won't understand that, but that's the first step in figuring out what's political power and what's economic power, and where the restraints are most critical.

Posted by: tbrosz on March 21, 2006 at 7:56 PM | PERMALINK

I don't accept your attempt to merge the ideas of "power" and "freedom to act," unless you're talking about lack of restraint. Posted by: tbrosz

Of course you don't because you hate government no matter what.

The freedom to act means that you've got the size to be capable of doing what is required in emergency circumstances.

Think about it in terms of a househole budget. The more money you have the more flexibility you have when something unforeseen arises.

If you're a moron, which you are of course, and shrink the government to Grover Norquist wet dream size, the next time a category 5 hurricane hits the Gulf or magnitude 9 quake hits somewhere along the West Coast or Mt. Rainier erupts, the response to Katrina will look positively stellar. Asshole.

Posted by: Jeff II on March 21, 2006 at 7:57 PM | PERMALINK

Bill Gates cannot be replaced by an election-a local zoning official can either not be re-elected or the person that appointed him can not be re-elected. See the difference.

Posted by: MRB on March 21, 2006 at 8:02 PM | PERMALINK

Well, it's like anything else- a car may look like an easy-to-drive compact to an adult, but to a child it's huge and complex.

And anybody dumb enough to believe Bush is going to think the government is very big and complex indeed. It's SOOO huge they have rules and everything. Mind-boggling.

Posted by: serial catowner on March 21, 2006 at 8:03 PM | PERMALINK

allowing herr prez to divert attention from the truth with this non-sense about big government being the problem is not acceptable. He is the spoiled brat on the playground who will never own any mistakes. He has never had to throughout his stinking pathetic richboy life.
ITMFA

Posted by: imbroglio on March 21, 2006 at 8:04 PM | PERMALINK

Also the zoning official acts upon popularly vote decided zoning laws not his own dictates. He follows zoning laws enacted by either elected officials or decided by popular vote.

Posted by: MRB on March 21, 2006 at 8:05 PM | PERMALINK

And getting to the original point, I believe that centralizing too many functions under one security agency, . . . posted by: tbrosz

Actually, that has nothing to do with the original post, which was about Bush trying again to shift the blame from his utterly incompitent appointees to the vague squishy concept of "BIG GOVERNMENT!"being the source of all evil in the world.

The DHS is too large, but that's not why the response to Katrina was so pathetic.

And, by the way, who came up with the numbskull idea to consolidate all those disparate departments? Was it French socialists? Chinese communist?

Posted by: Jeff II on March 21, 2006 at 8:08 PM | PERMALINK

MRB:

Sit down sometime and tally up the number of government employees, bureaucrats, and others who make the rules for all of us, and tell me how many of them you got to vote for.

There are public hearings where you can make yourself heard in zoning issues, but most local official positions around here are appointed, and some jobs don't expire at all. This is even more true for the Federal government.

When I'm dealing in the marketplace, I don't have to try and convince anyone. I just have to make a free decision.

Posted by: tbrosz on March 21, 2006 at 8:09 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah, if Bush would obey the law and make rulings based on the evidence, we wouldn't be having these problems.

Notice how easily the rightwing accepts the idea that, big government- that's hard to do, but, using that same big government to invade a country on the other side of the globe? No problemmo....

Posted by: serial catowner on March 21, 2006 at 8:09 PM | PERMALINK
I don't accept your attempt to merge the ideas of "power" and "freedom to act," unless you're talking about lack of restraint.

Since "lack of restraint" is pretty much a perfect synonym for "freedom to act" and "power", I'd say that's exactly what I'm talking about.


The entire point of our Constitution was to strap government down, and allow citizens the maximum amount of freedom.

Well, no. The main point of our Constitution was to empower the national government because the previous one was too weak, and consequently failed to meet the essential demands placed upon it.

The ideal constitution is one that tells what government may do, and what citizens may not do, and it should be a very short document.

That's an interesting idea, but I'm not sure what "very short" means in this context, and I'm not sure the truth of the statement, even with such a definition, can be evaluated except by actually proposing an "ideal constitution" and reaching agreement on what it is, and then seeing if it meets that standard. I certainly wouldn't agree that this statement is an obvious a priori truth.

Given the evidence of history, in any given situation, I tend to prefer solutions that do not concentrate more power in the State.

More than what exactly?

Almost every large scale atrocity in the last century was committed by a highly-centralized government that was not accountable to even its own people.

Yes, and neither "highly centralized" nor, especially, "not accountable to even its own people" is the same thing as "big".

And I'd argue that the lack of accountability is a bigger factor than the "highly centralized" one, or any factor of overall size or scope.

Your argument that it isn't the government power that actually causes the abuse is a bit lame.

And yet you have presented nothing to refute it.

The connection between the two is so obvious, that I'm amazed I have to try and explain it.

I already explained the connection in my discussion of why it wasn't the cause of the ill, but rather an enabler of it. So I don't know why you think you have to try to explain it (not that you've been doing anything that looks like trying to explain it, or argue for a position on it.)

Did you check out the link CN posted? The author there has done the math.

And...so? Yes, clearly a more powerful regime is more capable of doing more active anything, good or ill. So if you measure the active wrongs of regimes, you'll find more killed by more powerful regimes.

If you measure deaths due to the incapacity of regimes to respond -- a much harder measure to make, to be sure -- you'd expect to find more in weaker regimes.

Both conclusions are rather obvious. The former is clearly easier to measure, that does not make it more important or significant.

The people who die because of incapacity of public systems to deal with natural disasters, disease epidemics, crime waves, or other acts of other private persons are no less dead than those who die because government agent come and shoot them.

And they are no less victims of regimes that did not meet their needs.

Posted by: cmdicely on March 21, 2006 at 8:11 PM | PERMALINK

Give it up, CM, we're dealing with imposters. Maybe there's something good on the telly.....

Posted by: serial catowner on March 21, 2006 at 8:16 PM | PERMALINK

Sit down sometime and tally up the number of government employees, bureaucrats, and others who make the rules for all of us, and tell me how many of them you got to vote for.

All of them, ultimately. I either vote for them, or for the person who appointed them, or for the person who appointed the person who appointed them, etc.

But that's called living in a democracy. I know that Flanders would prefer to live free in a state of anarchy, where men are men, with only him and his DARPA-funded big government income to fall back on....

Posted by: Stefan on March 21, 2006 at 8:19 PM | PERMALINK

Jeff II:

Leaving aside the infantile insults, we're talking organization as well as money and power. If you watched what happened with Katrina, the difficult issue was trying to deal with local emergencies using a highly centralized authority. Having enormous power isn't going to do you much good if you aim it where it isn't needed. How many of those billions of dollars for Katrina are actually being used effectively? Would double the money be any more effective if it was going down a rathole?

Too many people have developed a rather odd idea of what FEMA should be doing in the first place.

I stand by the assertion that part of the problem is an overcentralized, massive emergency bureaucracy, that should probably be put back the way it used to be. Maybe this is what Bush meant by "big government." Maybe not. It's what I mean, though.

Posted by: tbrosz on March 21, 2006 at 8:20 PM | PERMALINK

A set of persons I find most irritating are those that make their livelyhood off government contracts and then complain about high taxes and big government.

tbrosz belongs to that set.

Posted by: lib on March 21, 2006 at 8:20 PM | PERMALINK

lib:

Have you actually READ any of the posts I wrote here? I don't think I even mentioned taxes.

Posted by: tbrosz on March 21, 2006 at 8:24 PM | PERMALINK

Stefan:

All of them, ultimately.

Look harder. Try picking a typical major regulatory agency at random. The vast majority of those in government who control what we do and how we do business are basically employees, and many of them have way too much leeway on how they can handle a problem.

Tell the next IRS agent who audits you that you aren't going to vote for him next time.

The government as a whole is a lot less accountable to its citizens than most businesses are to their customers.

Posted by: tbrosz on March 21, 2006 at 8:29 PM | PERMALINK

I stand by the assertion that part of the problem is an overcentralized, massive emergency bureaucracy, that should probably be put back the way it used to be. Maybe this is what Bush meant by "big government." Maybe not. It's what I mean, though. posted by: tbrosz

No it's not. You hate government in general thinking that the "marketplace" is a much less riskier proposition. You've made that clear time and again.

Overcentralization of DHS/FEMA's tasks had nothing, nothing to do with the screws ups before, during and following Katrina. Again, it is well-documented that Chertoff and Brown, primarily, fucked-up. We've got e-mails, phone logs and, best of all, Bush on video tape showing how out of touch he was. We had National Guard troops from the Gulf in Iraq.

What don't you understand about this issue in particular? And, again, it's your people, idiot conservatives, that cooked-up the consolidation that created DHS. That's your fault! Your president and your representatives were instrumental in this. So, infantile or not, fuck you and everyone who looks and acts like you. You're trying to do the same thing Bush is - typical or your ilk - shifting blame. The DHS didn't make itself too big. Republicans did.

Posted by: Jeff II on March 21, 2006 at 8:34 PM | PERMALINK

Leaving aside the infantile insults, we're talking organization as well as money and power. If you watched what happened with Katrina, the difficult issue was trying to deal with local emergencies using a highly centralized authority.

When FEMA was run by a disaster management professional such as Clinton appointee James Lee Hiatt it performed extremely well. There was relatively little problem in dealing with local emergencies using a highly centralized authority.

When FEMA was run by political hacks such as Bush appointees Albaugh and Brown, however, it fell flat on its face.

Same organization, same highly centralized authority, only a few years apart. So what's different? Could it be that the qualifications and seriousness of the managers, of their relative levels of expertise and dedication to their job, came into play as well? That an agency can do well when it is run by people who are determined to run that agency professionally and competently, and that same agency can do badly when it is run by political cronies who see it only as an opportunity for personal and partisan advancement?

Think hard, now....

Posted by: Stefan on March 21, 2006 at 8:36 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, Stefan, I would agree. I voted for all of them, except of course the votes that were decided before I was born or could vote. So the tally would take little time.

Posted by: MRB on March 21, 2006 at 8:37 PM | PERMALINK

tbrosz: I stand by the assertion that part of the problem is an overcentralized, massive emergency bureaucracy, that should probably be put back the way it used to be. Maybe this is what Bush meant by "big government." Maybe not. It's what I mean, though.

There's a difference between risk-leveling--in which Big is usually better (especially for Katrina-scale events)--and response. FEMA serves both functions. It is a national-level risk-leveling agent, and a national-level risk-response agent. As a risk-leveling agent, we need that national scale, or even international scale (which is why there is a big international re-insurance market). Whether we could do better with a more decentralized risk-response agent is arguable. In any case, don't confuse the two.

Posted by: has407 on March 21, 2006 at 8:41 PM | PERMALINK

Stefan:

FEMA was folded into the larger Homeland Security bureaucracy in 2003, along with about two dozen other agencies, long after Witt left his position in January of 2001.

To the best of my knowledge, nobody had any major complaints about FEMA between those two times.

My point on overcentralization still stands.

Posted by: tbrosz on March 21, 2006 at 8:48 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, policemen are basically government employees that act to enforce regulations just as the IRS does, the SEC does, etc, etc. Although these individuals cannot be voted out of their jobs they enforce regulations or laws that we as voters have approved or voted for representatives to approve. If you are going to live in a heavily populated semi-consistent area then you will have to develop laws to regulate some behavior and provide for those laws enforcement. Otherwise you've got total chaos.

Posted by: MRB on March 21, 2006 at 8:49 PM | PERMALINK

has407:

I think you're right about the distinction. Before Katrina, FEMA was the outfit that showed up after a disaster and wrote checks, or helped cities and agencies organize responses and supplies before a disaster. A sort of super insurance company.

Somehow it got morphed into an agency that's supposed to be dropping supplies from military helicopters while a hurricane is in progress.

I still think it worked better before it was merged with all those other agencies.

Posted by: tbrosz on March 21, 2006 at 8:53 PM | PERMALINK

"Our "big government" which is actually smaller than when Bill Clinton took office because of reduction made during his tenure, didn't cause Katrina."

His government "reductions" were all taken out of the Defense Department.

Posted by: Campesino on March 21, 2006 at 9:05 PM | PERMALINK

His government "reductions" were all taken out of the Defense Department. Posted by: Campesino

No. The number of people employed by the federal government was reduced across the board.

http://www.brookings.edu/comm/policybriefs/pb45.htm

Whereas federal government employment has actually grown during the Bush years.

http://www.brookings.edu/gs/cps/light20030905.htm

Take that, you drive-by loser!

Posted by: Jeff II on March 21, 2006 at 9:13 PM | PERMALINK

Stefan wrote: In a similar vein, I was reading one of the conservative blogs yesterday (The Corner, perhaps?) and read a piece by a commentator who said that the lesson he learned after three years of the Iraq War is that (paraphrasing) "the federal government can't be trusted to do things right."

P.J. O'Rourke said ages ago that Republicans are the party that maintains that government doesn't work, and then get elected and prove it.

And he said it before Bush the Lesser.

Posted by: Gregory on March 21, 2006 at 9:21 PM | PERMALINK

I don't know where these trailers are going but on the 8th of March I drive up I-57 to Effingham, IL and the across I-70 to Indianapolis. I counted over 50 FEMA trailers going in the other direction (West and South) being pulled by large pickups.

If in a 4, or so, hour period I saw that many, how many a day are heading south and what are they being used for ? ? ? Who is using them ? ? ?

Posted by: Chief on March 21, 2006 at 9:23 PM | PERMALINK

Effingham, IL? Home of the humongous cross?

Posted by: shortstop on March 21, 2006 at 11:32 PM | PERMALINK

JeffII:

Whereas federal government employment has actually grown during the Bush years.

What's wrong? Government getting too big for you? Isn't this where we came in?

Posted by: tbrosz on March 22, 2006 at 12:05 AM | PERMALINK

Obviously, the people of NOLA just want government to get off their backs, as Reagan was fond of saying...

Posted by: DK2 on March 22, 2006 at 12:12 AM | PERMALINK

Those trailers are sitting in Arkansas because they can't be sent to a flood zone. What other president's administration wouldn't have figured out that New Orleans is in a flood zone especially since --- it actually flooded?

Posted by: Brian Boru on March 22, 2006 at 12:45 AM | PERMALINK

Danger.

Posted by: Chris on March 22, 2006 at 1:07 AM | PERMALINK

tbrosz wrote: "Did you check out the link CN posted? The author there has done the math."

Are you really not aware that the website and the math on it are completely irrelevant to the discussion here? Sheesh....

Posted by: PaulB on March 22, 2006 at 1:38 AM | PERMALINK

tbrosz wrote: "What's wrong? Government getting too big for you?"

No, dear, just pointing out the difference between competence and incompetence, not to mention exposing your hypocrisy.

Posted by: PaulB on March 22, 2006 at 1:39 AM | PERMALINK

cmdicely wrote: "not that you've been doing anything that looks like trying to explain it, or argue for a position on it."

He can't. We're now quite firmly into an area of faith and belief for tbrosz. These precepts are so self-evident to him that it never even occurs to him to question them, much less to try to justify them to someone else. We've seen this over and over again on quite a few threads here.

Posted by: PaulB on March 22, 2006 at 1:45 AM | PERMALINK

Bush is unique, he is the most effective born-again evangelical president. The concept of government is no longer relevant. What's a government, when you believe that you are the only salvation on earth? God's messenger, doing his very best to bring about the second coming of Christ. As such all other measures to compare him with previous presidents can not be used, since they are no longer valid.

Posted by: Mini Al on March 22, 2006 at 1:46 AM | PERMALINK

It's pretty funny that the guy in charge of the Big Government is still complaining about it.

That's the essence of pathetic.

Posted by: Jimm on March 22, 2006 at 2:46 AM | PERMALINK

Tell the next IRS agent who audits you that you aren't going to vote for him next time.

Buy a clue.

The Service doesn't write tax law - it merely attempts to codify and interpret them. Congress is utlimately responsible for all bad law and bad tax priciples embodied in the Code.

Congress makes the mess. Simple as that.

Posted by: CFShep on March 22, 2006 at 8:48 AM | PERMALINK

Tell the next IRS agent who audits you that you aren't going to vote for him next time.

No, you tell the Congressman who votes for the tax law that you won't vote for him next time.

Posted by: Stefan on March 22, 2006 at 9:38 AM | PERMALINK

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Posted by: shoo on March 22, 2006 at 11:16 AM | PERMALINK

The trailer purchase has to be another "crony" deal on someone's behalf...as anyone who lives on the coast or in any kind of lowlands knows, trailers are manufactured according to "zones" and so labeled....whoever provided them knew that they should have met the correct "zone" standards..sounds like to me FEMA or DHS let some friend of a friend unload a bunch of low end units they couldn't otherwise move on us taxpayers.

Posted by: Carroll on March 22, 2006 at 12:34 PM | PERMALINK

His government "reductions" were all taken out of the Defense Department. Posted by: Campesino

No. The number of people employed by the federal government was reduced across the board.

http://www.brookings.edu/comm/policybriefs/pb45.htm

Whereas federal government employment has actually grown during the Bush years.

http://www.brookings.edu/gs/cps/light20030905.htm

Take that, you drive-by loser!

Posted by: Jeff II on March 21, 2006 at 9:13 PM | PERMALINK

You need to quit being led around by the nose and look at real numbers:
http://www.census.gov/govs/www/apesfed93.html
http://ftp2.census.gov/govs/apes/00fedfun.txt
http://www.dior.whs.mil/MMID/military/history/milhist.htm

1993 - Fed Civilian Employees + Active Duty Military = 4,704,142
Active Military + Fed Civilian Nat Defense Category = 2,631,223

2000 - Fed Civilian Employees + Active Duty Military = 4,283,701
Active Military + Fed Civilian Nat Defense Category = 2,079,383

Total decline in Federal Employment = 420,441
Decline in Active Military + Fed Civilian Nat Defense Category = 551,840

Non-Defense related Federal Employment actually ROSE under Clinton when you look at the numbers from 2,072,919 to 2,204,318

Drive-by yourself!

Posted by: Campesino on March 22, 2006 at 1:23 PM | PERMALINK

article: interested principally in maximizing his own power. It doesn't make him a liberal.


then cn responds:

That is exactly what makes him a liberal.

and yet bush fooled republicans not once...but twice...

i told you...the joke is first on conservatives..

then america...

arent you laughing yet?

Posted by: thisspaceavailable on March 22, 2006 at 1:45 PM | PERMALINK

It's a no lose proposition for Republicans. If they do something well, they can point to it and say "Look what we did. Re-elect us because we did this thing well."

And if they do something poorly, they can point to it and say "See, government can't do anything right. Re-elect us to get government off your backs."

Heads, they win. Tails, we lose.

Posted by: Greg VA on March 22, 2006 at 2:41 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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