Posts Tagged ‘George W. Bush’

Cheeps and Chirps for April 2017 (more catch-up)

June 23, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
June 23, 2017

You got it: Yet more catching up from my Twitter feed!

• ZOMG Donald Trump!

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Cheeps and Chirps for April 10, 2017

April 10, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
April 10, 2017

Spring is here. What better time than now to revisit my tweets? (Since we haven’t done this since January, and since I can’t bear to squander any precious gems, this installment will run from late January through the end of February; I’ll catch up on the rest later.)

 

• Donald Trump tackles immigration

 

• Donald Trump makes dubious personnel choices 

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Cheeps and Chirps — belated July 2016 Democratic National Convention edition!

August 12, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Aug. 12, 2016

Yep — have some more Twitter!

• Comedy!

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Cheeps and Chirps — belated July 2016 Republican National Convention edition!

August 11, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Aug. 11, 2016

Twitter feed, represent!

Sadly, this could be an evergreen tweet

 

• Reminder: The U.S. is still at war

 

• Comedy!

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Recent Readings for July 1, 2016

July 1, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
July 1, 2016

• “The Love Song of Robert Bentley, Alabama’s Horndog Governor.” GQ political correspondent Jason Zengerle dives into one of the recent scandals that has rocked the Alabama political world: The extramarital affair between Gov. Robert Bentley, a kindly dermatologist and grandfather whom some nicknamed “the accidental governor,” and a senior adviser. The whole thing is sordid, and includes the firing of one of the governor’s friends, a top state law enforcement official, because he crossed Bentley and his lover. Perhaps the most shocking thing about the entire affair is how Bentley’s entire character and life appear to have changed as a result of his dalliance.

• “Is Mike Hubbard the Most Corrupt Politician in America?” Gov. Bentley isn’t the only politician from the Yellowhammer State to have run into serious trouble. In 2010, former sports broadcasting mogul Mike Hubbard masterminded a Republican takeover of all branches of Alabama state government after Democrats had held the legislature for 136 straight years. In 2012, a grand jury indicted Hubbard on 23 felony counts. This article by Joe Miller was the first in a series of five New Republic stories describing the charges against Hubbard and his trial, which concluded in June with a mixed verdict.

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Cheeps and Chirps for May 15, 2016

May 15, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
May 15, 2016

Here are some more recent odds and ends from my Twitter feed.

• Comedy!

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Exit Ted Cruz… for now

May 6, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
May 6, 2016

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas ended his presidential campaign Tuesday night after losing the Indiana primary by 16 points to businessman Donald Trump. The outcome in the Hoosier State all but assured Trump of obtaining the 1,237 delegates he needs to win the nomination on the first ballot at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland this summer. Ohio Gov. John Kasich — who still had fewer delegates than U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, despite the fact that the Floridian dropped out of the race in March — ended his campaign on Wednesday, only a few hours after GOP national chairman Reince Priebus acknowledged that Trump was the party’s presumptive nominee.

So here we are: The man whom many predicted would never win the nomination, and whom I predicted wouldn’t even win a single primary or caucus, has vanquished all comers from the party of elephants.

In truth, I’m sorry to see Cruz go. Tracking his campaign was like watching a suspense thriller. Would the obvious creep — and Cruz’s off-putting personality and looks were matched only by his heartless radical-right policies — be able to charm, fool, injure or kill all the characters who stood any chance of detecting and foiling his evil scheme?

Cruz, after all, isn’t just someone who was famously loathed by his freshman-year college roommate and widely reviled by his Senate colleagues and fellow Republicans. Recall that U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.) tepidly endorsed Cruz about three weeks after saying, in a speech at the Washington Press Club Foundation’s 72nd Congressional Dinner, “If you killed Ted Cruz on the floor of the Senate, and the trial was in the Senate, nobody could convict you.”

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Some notes on 2016 primary voting trends (or the lack thereof)

April 27, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
April 27, 2016

Out of idle curiosity, I began looking at popular vote numbers in Tuesday night’s primaries. Interestingly, the data show that in three states, the Democratic runner-up — Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland and Pennsylvania; former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Clintaln in Rhode Island — received more votes than the Republican winnerbusinessman Donald Trump in all five of that states.

Trump outdid Sanders in Delaware, 42,472 to 36,659, and in Pennsylvania, 892,702 to 719,955.

However, in none of these states did Trump get more votes than the Democratic winner. Maryland, in fact, wasn’t even close — Clinton’s 533,247 votes were more than twice as many as the number Trump got in the Old Line State, 236,623.

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On politicians and (possible) pyramid schemes

April 7, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
April 7, 2016

I referred on Tuesday to a post by Jezebel’s Erin Gloria Ryan that asked “Do Any of the Republicans Running for President Actually Want to Win?” I happen to disagree with some of Ryan’s takes. For instance, I think that U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) very badly wants to be president — although I also believe that he’s keenly aware of the fact that his fervently courting evangelical audiences and throwing red meat to them will eventually redound to his benefit, whether or not he’s ever elected to another office.

Ryan wrote that “this entire election makes a lot more sense if you think of it like a political sequel for The Producers.” She continued:

Mel Brooks’s 1967 farce-musical tells the story of a pair of down-on-their-luck men who realize that they can make more money producing a musical that’s a flop than they can producing one that succeeds. Money raised by backers, reason Max Bialystock and Leo Bloom (as played by Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder), will make them rich, and if the show closes after only a night, they get to keep all of the money themselves rather than paying investors their share of profits. To maximize its offensiveness, they hire a Nazi to write it, the worst director on Broadway to direct it, and an [sic] semi-lucid man to star in it. Much to their horror, Springtime for Hitler is a smash hit.

Politicians left, right and center have long been associated with all manner of grift, but the link seems to be especially deep when it comes to conservative politicos. Back in the fall of 2012, the left-leaning historian Rick Perlstein, author of books about presidents Nixon and Reagan, argued that “the reflex of lying [is] now sutured into the modern conservative movement’s DNA” and asserted that “conservative leaders treat their constituents like suckers.”

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U.S. budget deficits: Numbers past, present and future

November 12, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Nov. 12, 2015

Earlier this week, I wrote about an analysis from the Tax Foundation that indicated that the tax-reform plans of seven Republican candidates each might increase the deficit by more than a trillion of dollars over a 10-year period. I want to explore the details a little further.

Allow me to set the stage with a brief history of federal budget deficits. The first time the U.S. budget was in the red for more than $75 billion was in fiscal year 1981, when it hit $79 billion under a plan enacted in what turned out to be the last year of Jimmy Carter’s presidency. The first time the federal deficit exceeded $100 billion was the very next year, under Ronald Reagan, when it reached $128 billion. Between 1983 and 1995, the budgetary gap ranged from a low of roughly $150 billion to a high of $290 billion.

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Our dysfunctional democracy: The Bushies’ win-at-all-costs mentality helped kill American unity after 9/11

September 18, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Sept. 18, 2015

Author’s note: I started to write about this topic in my inaugural Recent Readings and then realized that I had way too much material to pack into just a paragraph or three. Hence, the following post. MEM 

Heather Digby Parton, the indispensable Salon commentator, began her column on Tuesday by assessing American unity immediately after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. Back then, Parton writes, “The man who should have been president, Al Gore, famously said, ‘George W. Bush is my commander in chief.’” By wide margins, Congress passed the Patriot Act and authorized military action in both Afghanistan, which harbored the masterminds of the 9/11 attacks, and Iraq, which had no connection to that tragedy and had not been actively developing weapons of mass destruction for years prior to the 2003 invasion.

Parton doesn’t delve into it, but, to my mind, it seems that very much the wrong set of people were in the White House in 2001. I write this not because I believe that there was a miscarriage of justice in the Florida elections process, and in the Supreme Court, although both of those things arguably happened.

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June 26, 2015: The Supreme Court extends marriage equality to all, and history is made

June 27, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
June 27, 2015

I don’t remember much about when or why I first started thinking seriously about gay marriage. I do know this, however: I used to be on the wrong side of history and justice.

I’m the kind of moderate who usually prefers to split the difference rather than award one or the other side an outright victory on any given issue. Gay marriage initially seemed to me to be frivolous — a pointless expansion, and perhaps even an outright redefinition, of marriage. If homosexuals could obtain civil unions that afforded them all the same legal rights as marriage, then why was there any need for gay marriage?

Granted, many states didn’t allow civil unions for homosexuals. This left life partners at the mercy of blood relatives and courts who were often hostile to their interests when one member of a couple was hospitalized or died. Still, civil unions were a reasonable intermediate step. If they could be implemented throughout the nation, I thought, it would moot the struggle over gay marriage.

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Wrestling with words: An attempt to unpack the meaning of Don DeLillo’s ‘Point Omega’

December 20, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Dec. 20, 2014

On one level, Point Omega, the slender 2010 work by American novelist Don DeLillo, is the tale of a social and intellectual seduction that is interrupted by inexplicable tragedy.

The two primary characters are Richard Elster, a 73-year-old former adviser to George W. Bush’s presidential administration, and Jim Finley, a 30-something filmmaker who is determined to make a documentary about the older man. Most of the book takes place in Elster’s isolated cabin in the Colorado Desert, about 180 miles southeast of Los Angeles.

Much of the book consists of long meandering philosophical discussions between Elster and Finley, such as this exchange from the first chapter:

“Lying is necessary. The state has to lie. There is no lie in war or in preparation for war that can’t be defended. We went beyond this. We tried to create new realities overnight, careful sets of words that resemble advertising slogans in memorability and repeatability. These were words that would yield pictures eventually and then become three-dimensional. The reality stands, it walks, it squats. Except when it doesn’t.”

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The moral stain of torture: Some things to keep in mind while we await the Senate report on CIA interrogation

December 4, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Dec. 4, 2014

In March 2009, U.S. Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Kit Bond (R-Mo.), respectively the chairwoman and chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, announced that their group had agreed on a bipartisan basis to review

• How the [Central Intelligence Agency] created, operated, and maintained its detention and interrogation program;

• How CIA’s assessments that detainees possessed relevant information were made;

• Whether the CIA accurately described the detention and interrogation program to other parts of the U.S. government, including the Office of Legal Counsel and the Senate Intelligence Committee;

• Whether the CIA implemented the program in compliance with official guidance, including covert action findings, Office of Legal Counsel opinions, and CIA policy;

The 2009 announcement also said that the committee would evaluate intelligence “gained through the use of enhanced and standard interrogation techniques.”

“Enhanced interrogation” is, of course, a euphemism for actions that most people would call “torture.”

Work on this Senate investigation spanned about five years, culminating in a report of about 6,000 pages. In early 2014, the committee submitted a 480-page executive summary to the White House. The Obama administration, including CIA officials, redacted the summary in ways that rendered it unintelligible and unsupported, according to complaints from Senate committee members.

The administration redactions came to light in August. The executive summary has remained in limbo since then.

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Are you feeling nostalgic for cheap gas? Maybe you shouldn’t…

October 28, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Oct. 28, 2014

On Sunday night, I was driving around Durham, North Carolina, when I noticed that a nearby gas station was selling unleaded for $2.99 a gallon. I did a quick search on Gas Guru, an iPhone app, and found a bunch of local stations that were offering the same price. It’s the lowest I’ve seen in quite a while.

A web search on Monday morning led me to this chart at a website called GasBuddy.com, which showed that gas prices nationally have been trending downward since late June. It’s difficult to discern precise numbers and dates on the graph, but the average U.S. price is a little less than than $3.09 per gallon right now.

The last time gas was so cheap was around the start of 2011, when the price was headed up; in May 2011, the price spiked at above $3.85/gallon. That’s the second-highest price for gas in the past decade.

The peak price was near $4.10 in June 2008. But soon after that, the price plunged. About six months after gas reached its highest level over the previous decade, it hit its lowest level in the same period. On Nov. 27, 2008, gas cost just $1.59.

A lot of conservatives seem to have forgotten this, but 2008 — the final year of the George W. Bush presidency — marked the beginning phase of the great recession, which lasted until June 2009. (Technically, the recession began in December 2007.)

In case you’ve forgotten about the recession — from which the U.S. economy continues to recover in rather sluggish fashion — let’s review.

After months of being at or below 4.7 percent, the unemployment rate rose to 5.0 percent in December 2007. It hit 6.1 percent in August 2008 and 7.3 percent in December 2008. Four months after that, it was 9.0 percent. In October 2009, the unemployment rate peaked at 10.0 percent.

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The old in-and-out: Obama, Bush and the removal of American troops from Iraq

August 9, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Aug. 9, 2014

There’s a tendency on the right to blame President Barack Hussein Obama for, well, just about every ill under the sun.

The conservative narrative goes something like this: Obama was inaugurated, and then everything went to hell. I’m oversimplifying the right-wing zeitgeist here — but, I would contend, only slightly.

A cursory examination of the Obama administration provides plenty of fodder for the argument that the president — through indifference, incompetence, iniquity or some mixture thereof — is ruining America. Gas prices rose sharply after the first president from Kenya Hawaii (oops!) took office. So did unemployment as the economy cratered. The deficit — and, as a consequence, the national debt — ballooned dramatically. Americans learned that under Obama, the National Security Agency was collecting unprecedented amounts of information about the calls we make and the e-mails we send. There have allegations that the Internal Revenue Service has been abusing its power to harass conservative nonprofit groups. And an ambassador was killed in the line of duty for the first time in 33 years.

Some of these complaints don’t stand up to scrutiny. Gas prices have risen under Obama, but they’ve never quite reached their peak of about $4.10 a gallon under Obama’s predecessor, President George W. Bush. The economy has ramped back upward. (The reasons for the slow recovery may lie beyond Obama’s control, much as the recession can’t be entirely attributed to Bush.) Many of the NSA practices seem to have begun under Bush. Protestations of outraged right-wingers to the contrary, IRS scrutiny wasn’t strictly limited to conservative groups. And recently, Republicans on a Congressional committee concluded that the administration was not responsible for any wrongdoing or gross negligence related to the deaths of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans at a consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

One can certainly debate the various merits of Obama’s policies — although I doubt folks on the right will be able to bring themselves to say anything complimentary about health-care reform anytime soon, despite evidence that it’s workingObama’s military intervention in Libya was conducted in defiance of the 1973 War Powers Resolution, thereby leaving a permanent blot on the president’s record. (I object not to the intervention but to Obama’s refusal to obtain congressional permission for extended military efforts.) Obama’s embrace of the extrajudicial killing of American citizens is blatantly outrageous, and will forever stain his presidency. Moreover, the president’s failure to prosecute torture conducted under the auspices of his predecessor severely undermined his claim to any moral high ground.

Yet I write not to bury Obama nor to praise him. Instead, I want to consider one oft-repeated conservative complaint that has always baffled me: The allegation that Obama is responsible for the increasing chaos in Iraq.

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The Bush administration followed a trail of wishful thinking into Iraq

July 2, 2013

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
July 2, 2013

Last year, journalist Kurt Eichenwald released a detailed history of the roughly 18-month period between the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks and the start of the Iraq war. Among other things, Eichenwald’s book, 500 Days: Secrets and Lies in the Terror Wars, reinforces just how shockingly quickly American officials began turning their attention from finding and punishing those responsible for 9/11 to deposing Saddam Hussein.

On the night of Sept. 11, the Central Intelligence Agency director, George Tenet, told President George W. Bush and his advisors that “Bin Laden’s fingerprints were all over this operation, but other actors may have played a supporting role. He wouldn’t be surprised, Tenet said, to find Iran or Iraq wrapped into this somehow.”

At that meeting, the officials recognized that their immediate response must involve both Afghanistan, which harbored al Qaeda under the aegis of its Taliban-controlled Islamic fundamentalist government, and Pakistan. Engaging the latter state would be tricky, those at the gathering knew, since Pakistan officials actively supported the Taliban.

No matter, Bush said. The United States was at war with a merciless enemy, and governments around the world would have to choose sides. “This is an opportunity beyond Afghanistan,” he said. “We have to shake terror loose in places like Syria, and Iran, and Iraq.”

He surveyed the room with calm eyes. “This is an opportunity to rout out terror wherever it might exist.”

One significant strand in 500 Days involves the British prime minister, Tony Blair, and his efforts to channel Bush administration anti-terror responses in productive ways. Almost from the beginning, Blair was troubled by what he heard out of the American president. He felt Bush’s lack of interest in building coalitions would ultimately hamper the global war on terror. He also was alarmed by the hostility Bush expressed toward Iraq.

“The evidence would have to be very compelling indeed to justify taking any action against Iraq,” Blair told Bush in a phone conversation just three days after the Twin Towers had fallen. Presciently, the prime minister added: “I would strongly advise dealing with Afghanistan very distinctively. To go after Iraq would be certain to lose Russia and France.”

Immediately after the conversation ended, Blair conferred with his cabinet. “Rumsfeld has been looking for reasons to hit Iraq,” said Geoff Hoon, the British defense secretary, referring to his American counterpart, Donald Rumsfeld. “They definitely want regime change, and that has been the channel of advice Bush has been getting since the election.”

“They would be mad to do Iraq without justification!” British foreign secretary Jack Straw said, Eichenwald reported. “They’ll lose world opinion.”  Read the rest of this entry »

In their rush to protect America from terrorism, Bush administration officials employed counterproductive tactics that verged on torture

June 26, 2013

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
June 26, 2013

In many ways, the United States was unprepared for the battle against terrorists that was triggered by the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The nation’s leaders had to implement new objectives and policies geared to fighting al Qaeda and its ilk. This enemy, unlike others faced and vanquished by America, did not control a nation; had no formal government; dispatched warriors who wore no uniform. Yet American soldiers and spies would have to capture, interrogate and possibly send to trial these new foes.

This is one of many threads tracked by Kurt Eichenwald in his 2012 book, 500 Days: Secrets and Lies in the Terror Wars. As is now well known, officials in the administration of President George W. Bush took extremely expansive views of the powers that a wartime president and his delegates could wield legally. Unfortunately, Eichenwald’s book shows, that perspective was one of several factors that helped facilitate the torture of detainees by Americans and American allies.

Around the time the U.S. began invading Afghanistan, in October 2001, several lawyers met to lay groundwork for handling captives. Attending were John Yoo, a Justice Department lawyer from the group tasked with providing legal advice to the executive branch; Alberto Gonzales, the chief White House counsel; Gonzales’ deputy, Tim Flanigan; and David Addington, senior counsel to Vice President Dick Cheney. Yoo was shown a draft presidential order modeled on one President Franklin Delano Roosevelt had issued.

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In ‘500 Days,’ Kurt Eichenwald outlines critical decisions and events that followed 9/11

June 25, 2013

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
June 24, 2013

In 500 Days: Secrets and Lies in the Terror Wars, veteran journalist Kurt Eichenwald sets out a history of the turmoil triggered by al Qaeda’s Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. This impressive 2012 book is focused on how the administration of President George W. Bush responded to the terrorist strike, although its scope is hardly limited to that.

Eichenwald retells many events that are both terrible and familiar. In the prologue, CIA and FBI officials find themselves frustrated as bureaucrats and Bush appointees, including Attorney General John Ashcroft, show little to no reaction to various signs that some kind of terrorist operation is in the works. (500 Days implies, and Eichenwald has explicitly argued elsewhere, that chances to foil the 9/11 attacks were squandered due to Bush administration inattention.) The first chapter begins with a spontaneous evacuation of the White House following the second collision between an airliner and the World Trade Center in New York City.

That impact triggered an immediate and massive response, setting in motion events that continue to have ramifications to the present day. We see this, for instance, in the reaction to recent revelations about the scope of data collection by the National Security Agency. As Eichenwald demonstrates, the NSA’s efforts were hastily and significantly expanded in the Stellar Wind initiative just weeks after the terrorist strikes.

One storyline in the book involves the largely ineffectual efforts by the British prime minister, Tony Blair, to channel the Bush administration’s preparations for war with Iraq in ways that will be acceptable to the British public and the international community. Tellingly, U.S. officials began considering Iraq involvement within hours of the tragedy.

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Navel-gazing: Ten years ago, on the eve of war

March 19, 2013

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
March 19, 2013

There have been plenty of navel-gazing columns by the pundit class lately. And with good reason: Ten years ago today, the United States was on the eve of launching a “war of choice” against Iraq and its ambitious, brutal dictator, Saddam Hussein.

I consider the war and subsequent occupation a colossal blunder. The exercise was grounded in lies and conducted in the main by laughably unprepared bunglers. Its consequences have been thoroughly lamentable for many, including our nation.

None of this, however, was apparent to me 10 years ago.

At the time, I was a master’s student at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism in New York City. I had a cautiously positive outlook about attacking Iraq.

Although I hadn’t voted for President George W. Bush (and would not do so in 2004, either), I found administration assertions that Hussein was actively seeking to develop nuclear weapons fundamentally trustworthy. These assertions, and my assessment, turned out to be gravely mistaken.  Read the rest of this entry »

One Wondrous Sentence: The perils of climate change

January 16, 2013

This one wondrous sentence captures some of the dire news contained in a quadrennial federal report — suspended, incidentally, during the administration of President George W. Bush — about changing meteorological conditions.

The draft Third National Climate Assessment, issued every four years, delivers a bracing picture of environmental changes and natural disasters that mounting scientific evidence indicates is fostered by climate change: heavier rains in the Northeast, Midwest and Plains that have overwhelmed storm drains and led to flooding and erosion; sea level rise that has battered coastal communities; drought that has turned much of the West into a tinderbox.

Source: Neela Banerjee, “Climate assessment delivers a grim overview,” Los Angeles Times, Jan. 11, 2013.

One Wondrous Sentence: War and politics

December 13, 2012

This one wondrous sentence, part of a novelist’s lengthy but fast-reading political memoir, succinctly expresses one contrarian liberal’s view of President George W. Bush’s foreign adventures.

At a social gathering following 9/11, I was dismayed that friends to the left of me condemned what I considered George W. Bush’s legitimate military action in Afghanistan, given the complicity of the Taliban in its alliance with al-Qaeda; the war against Iraq, on the other hand (having nothing to do with al-Qaeda or 9/11 or phantom weapons), made me angrier than anything that any American government has done.

Source: Steve Erickson, “I Was a Teenage Conservative,” The American Prospect, Dec. 5, 2012.

One Wondrous Sentence: Fiscal irresponsibility

December 10, 2012

This one wondrous sentence is part of a serious, considered examination of the comprehensive rebuilding job that the Republican Party must undertake.

The unified Republican government under George W. Bush, whatever its other virtues, spent money like nobody’s business, and that generation of Republican leaders managed to singlehandedly destroy the party’s reputation for fiscal restraint.

Source: Kevin D. Williamson, “Beyond Tax Cuts: The GOP needs a broader economic agenda,” National Review, Dec. 3, 2012.

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