Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Remembering the Bush Years

There ought to be a monument somewhere where Bush's many failures are engraved in stone. Or maybe a museum, where visitors can file past displays full of the evidence, listen to audio of people whose lives were ruined, maybe even audio of the criminals whose crimes he enabled, where we can listen to Barbara Bush saying how well things turned out, over an over and over again to the video of the mess that was never repaired.

There should be video of the various perp walks and thrown shoes, a virtual tour of the ruins of Iraq and New Orleans accompanied by George strumming a guitar or relaxing or joking with friends. I'd like everyone to know who those friends are. I'd like to know how rich they were when George W. Bush took office and how rich they were before the market collapsed, and what they spent that money on. I'd like the numbers of their offshore bank accounts.

I want a statues erected of John Yoo and Dick Cheney and David Addington and Donald Rumsfeld posed in the positions we remember from the photos taken in Abu Ghraib.

I would like to have the likenesses of the 2000 recount mob cast in bronze. People ought to be reminded that the "spontaneous public outrage" shown in that famous photograph on the front page of every American newspaper––the violent outrage which quickly shut the 2000 recount down, out of fear for election officials' safety––was really just a group of Republican Congressional staffers flown down from Washington. Whose jets did they fly down on? Who do they work for now? Where do they live?

I'd like the Supreme Court Justices' rationalization for appointing George W. Bush tattooed on their five foreheads.

I'd like to know line by line the reckless environmental deregulation and scientific lies perpetrated in eight years of Bush. I'd like to know how much poison Bush allowed back into the air and the water, and the dollars that his corporate friends saved in this way, and the names of the lawyers and lobbyists who argued on behalf of poisoning Americans. Scientific institutes are given the names of prominent people, but we should also put the names of prominent stupid people and liars on permanent display.

I'd like to have lines painted on lamposts in coastal cities showing where the water level will be when Greenland melts, so we can all thank the soon to be former president and his friends in the fossil fuel industry.

I'd like to restore the "discouraged" workers to the count of the unemployed. The Bush Labor Department found clever ways of distorting the information it fed the public, undercounting the less encouraging labor statistics. I'd like this corrected. Maybe we should give a grant to an artist who would project the names of unemployed Americans or their images onto the Labor Department Building, or, better still, the White House. After the Bushes move out, the slide show could continue at their new house in an affluent neighborhood in Dallas. People would come from all over to appreciate the art. Discussions would take place in the yard of the Bush home. Actual unemployed people could come and tell their stories. People could dress up like the CEOs who laid the workers off and read aloud from their pay agreement as their Bush tax rebate checks are circulated in facsimile through the audience. We could paper the exterior of the White House with the tax returns of the 5000 wealthiest Americans.

I'd like a public accounting of the billions of dollars the wealthiest Americans sucked out of the pockets of workers by fraud, by raiding pension funds, by negotiating pay concessions to further enrich themselves, by predatory lending and business practices. Did they buy $50,000 wristwatches, or $5000 bottles of wine for lunch? How many wristwatches? How many expensive lunches? Is lifetime free drycleaning part of their retirement package? Where are their lifetime seats at sporting events and the opera so we can all thank them personally? If their company tanked and they laid off thousands of loyal workers, did they pay themselves big bonuses anyway? I'd like their names and faces known. Where do they live? Are they home right now? Can we write them a letter? Can we throw shoes at them?

The parallel lives of the unemployed factory worker whose job was moved overseas or the retiree whose pension disappeared and the corporate CEO who laid them off or raided the pension would make a gripping graphic novel or television series or feature film.

The mass cashing of bogus million dollar payouts to corporate CEOs of American companies could be a new form of public performance art. We should ask the CEOs to explain why they are paid their obscene incomes using modern dance.

I'd like to read these stories of the Bush Years in newspapers, but I'd prefer to see the criminal record publicized in a more permanent and public form. In bronze or stone, in books, on film or carved in the concrete sidewalks of Wall Street and Main Street for people to read every day while they walk wearily to work, if they still have jobs. Or on the way to the unemployment office.

George W. Bush should be ashamed, but his friends and enablers and cronies should as well. We should know their names.


Saturday, December 27, 2008

Fraud is an Old Old Story

A few years ago PBS's Masterpiece Theatre gave us Trollope's THE WAY WE LIVE NOW. Most people tuned in for the Victorian costumes and interiors. I remember shaking my head at how modern and up-to-the-minute the story was. A shrewd financier promises astonishing returns on investments and all of prosperous London rushes to give him their money. You know what happens next. It's an old story. Why are we continually surprised?

A French philosopher once wrote "Property is theft." That might be a bit extreme. Closer to the mark is Balzac's famous line "Behind every great fortune is a crime." Actually, the precise quote is "Le secret des grandes fortunes sans cause apparente est un crime oubli , parce qu' il a t proprement fait." ("The secret of a great success for which you are at a loss to account is a crime that has never been found out, because it was properly executed.") We should remember that Washington's Mount Vernon and Jefferson's Monticello were built by slaves on fortunes created by slave labor. Sometimes the great crime isn't theft, but kidnapping and murder. Ordinary fraud seems almost tame.

Every generation produces its naive idealists (let's call them pure free-market economists) who think Capitalism is a religion whose operations are regulated by God. God being the Capitalist himself, who can do no wrong. And every generation relearns the same sorry lesson. The perfect Capitalist we thought was God is often a flim-flam artist.

The trick for the non-economist is being skeptical without growing cynical. But it is hard to be uncynical when the people who run things are such credulous boobs, when the policemen we employ think the crooks will police themselves.

Labels: , , ,

Saturday, December 20, 2008


I have been writing satires about this for several years. I have been drawing very funny cartoons about it. The problem was nobody thought the topic was appropriate to satirize. They bought the funds but wouldn't buy the jokes. That is the problem with religion, I guess. When people really really want to believe in something they will not, cannot listen to jokes about it. It is like team spirit.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Who Will/Could/Might Governor Pawlenty Appoint As Senator?

Surprisingly, in light of the scandal surrounding the governor-appointed Senate seat in Illinois, there's little talk about who Governor Pawlenty will/could/might appoint to fill the Senate seat which scandal-plagued Norm Coleman will/could/might win only to (possibly, sadly) relinquish. (Ted Stevens's decision was luckily made for him.)


Pawlenty might try auctioning the naming rights. For a few million dollars a year our Senator would be known as the TCF Senator from Minnesota. (GOP stalwart and TCF CEO Bill Cooper might favor this plan.)

Instead of using time-tested Pay-Or-Play principles Pawlenty might employ a newer, more "idea-driven" process to pick our new Senator. The one question questionnaire worked splendidly for Monica Goodling at the Bush Justice Department. Just ask applicants' views on Roe v. Wade. This turned a complicated process into a bracingly efficient one with hardly any red tape.

The third option, sometimes called the "Anderson Plan" would be for Pawlenty to quietly resign the governorship and express surprise and delight when Lt. Governor Molnau selects him to be senator.

This, however, leaves room for a modified form of the so-called "Cheney Gambit" in which the Selector becomes the Selectee. In Molnau's case, considering she has already shown the nimbleness and grace required to fill two offices simultaneously, there is the very real chance she'd keep the governorship and serve as senator too.