4 thinks I like about the Bush administration

Ever since I started Muttroxia, I’ve been wanting to do a post about the things I like about the Bush administration. I suppose it was part of an effort to seem non-partisan, or objective or something like that. Problem was, every time I sat down to write, I couldn’t come up with much. It was going to be a top 10, but I ended up with only four. And since one of them (#4) was a unanimous decision by 300 million Americans, it’s not really all that amazing. And they all have asterisks. Oh well, when you’re grading Worst President Ever, there’s not a lot to work with.

The things I like fall under two broad themes.

Economics: These folks believe in the power of the free market. To a large degree, so do I. They often put it places it doesn’t belong (Social Security, Health Savings Accounts), but sometimes it goes somewhere I like.

1) No Child Left Behind – Without accountability, it is foolish to hope for change. Hoping for A while rewarding for B does not work. Bush deserves credit for bring market forces to bear in the educational system, and installing a system where performance is rewarded. There are major major problems with the implementation and details (not enough money, testing standards that don’t take gifted or special needs students into account, no real option for students or schools that just failed) — but the idea has merit, and to some degree, this is the pain that is needed to get to a better place in the future.

2) Market-based trading of pollution emissions – Again, there is plenty of room to argue about how exactly this program was implemented. Nevertheless, bringing market forces into the area of environmental pollution is a great idea. As far as I know, it has been proven over and over to produce the best results the quickest, and do it in a way consonant with both democracy and capitalism.

Black and White foreign policy: These folks believe in good and evil. They believe that some societies are just bad, and deserve to be treated like dirt. They should not be negotiated with, they should not be given the same status as mature democracies, etc. Many times, this leads to huge foreign policy mistakes (Iraq, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, etc.), but if I happen to agree with the judgement, it’s refreshing not to have the President pretending that these societies are every bit as good as everyone else, just different. That’s simply not true, and we all know it.

3) Calling out the Palestinians – There’s never been a shadow of a doubt that the Arab world is the bad guy in the Arab/Israeli conflict. No one with an ounce of perspective can claim otherwise. The line from Yasir Arafat, who invented modern terrorism, to Osama Bin Laden is self-evident. To his credit, Bush did not treat Arafat like a hero or diplomat or peace monger. His stance was very clear, that until Palestine cleaned up it’s act, there’s nothing to talk about. Despite the recent triumph of Hamas at the polls, there have been any number of positive developments since he took this stance.

4) Taking out the Taliban – Yes, he let Osama get away. Yes, he invented a war in Iraq, and let Al Queda flourish. But at least for a couple months, he did what any sane person would have done. Al Queda, through the Taliban, ran Afghanistan. We took ’em out. They were evil, and we dumped them. Too bad we didn’t follow through, but at least the start was right.

TV and the “Blind” button

All TVs now come with a mute button. I am asking for a “blind” button. This would keep the sound going, but turn off the image. It would be good for shows with gross medical stuff. NipTuck, medical surgery shows, etc. Seriously, who wants to watch that stuff, it’s repulsive. I know have all kinds of disgusting organy things inside me, but I don’t need to think about it. It would be good when good songs are played on a show, but the imagery is just annoying. Any of the CSI/Who openings, bands that should wear bags on their head, etc.

Most people already have a hundred stations that do nothing but broadcast music. Why not complete the comparison and turn off the video? This is especially easy in the digital TV/TiVo world, it ought to be one simple button.

Yes, this is a great idea! No doubt about it – that Muttrox sure is smart! But even one so insightful and brilliant as I cannot come up with the right name for this function.

The sound one is called “mute” to indicate no noise being broadcast, not deaf, which would refer to you the listener. (Wouldn’t it be funny if they had called it “dumb” instead?) What is the equivalent with light? Is there a word for someone that can’t show themselves? Well, no, that’s physically impossible, more or less. Blind? Invisible? Ideas welcomed.

This Domestic Spying Unpleasantness

Many have framed this issue as a tradeoff between civil liberties and national security. It is not. There are many venues to have that debate. One of them happens to be Congress. In fact, this debate happened about 30 years ago, when the FISA courts were created as a response to Nixon. The FISA court was created specifically so that the president could take appropriate actions to protect national security. In it’s history, it has approved over 99.9% of requests, so it’s not exactly a bastion of treehugging liberal civil liberties crybabies. It even approves tapping retroactively (within 72 hours), in case the need is truly urgent.

Further, if the president truly felt that FISA was tying his hands too much, he had an obvious option. It’s called Congress. At any time, he could have asked Congress to rewrite the rules. Data mining provisions could have been added, adjustments to modern technologies and the particular enemy we face could have been made. Although the president has loyal majorities in both houses of Congress, he chose not to do that. He chose to simply ignore Congress and do what he wanted.

This is what the Democrats/Liberals/Left/Libetarians are up in arms about. In point of fact, there has been remarkably little criticism for the idea that some domestic monitoring may be needed. The primary criticism is that the president knowingly, willfully, broke the law. When confronted, he has been unrepentant. Bush’s position is that he has the authority to ignore Congress’s explicit wishes. His position is that if Congress passes any law which he disagrees with, that law is unconstitutional. You don’t need to be much of a constitutional scholar to understand why this is a bad thing. It’s equivalent to saying that he does not recognize that Congress has any authority. In fact, this has been demonstrated. In his signing statement for McCain’s recent torture law, Bush claimed he has the right to ignore the law whenever he wants. He and his cabinet have been asked if the Patriot Act were not renewed, would he recognize that authority, and they have said they would simply work around it as needed.

This is not a president. This is a king. America got rid of them over 200 years ago, and we went to create the best society in the history of the world. It’s a shame to see the monarchy making such a comeback.

As a postscript, one of the primary authors of the legal theory underlying Bush’s actions happens to be Sam Alito.

***late addendum:
Andrew Sullivan, whose essay on torture I referenced earlier, wrote an excellent article about the issue at stake here. I gotta admit, I’m starting to like the cut of his jib.

Snapfish – They got me again!

Most of you who read this blog get our annual holiday card. We get them from Snapfish. They send you the cards and the envelopes. After writing and printing out the letter, we folded them all up. Unsuspecting of any trouble, we did a standard tri-fold of the letters. I am for too proud that I can always nail this perfectly on the first try to fit into a standard envelope. Anyhow, so we’ve folded all the letters, and we go to put them in the envelopes, and…

The envelopes aren’t quite wide enough to accomodate a standard piece of paper. For some odd reason, instead of making them 9 1/2″ wide (which, you’ll notice, gives you enough room for a 8 1/2″ wide piece of paper, with a little left over), they made them around 8 1/4″ (which, you’ll notice is ever so slightly less than 8 1/2″). Why would they not make them just a bit larger, so that they could accomodate a letter along with the card? Admittedly, holiday letters are a bit dopey, but I know we are not the only people that do them. It’s hard to believe the people at Snapfish ever had to eat their own dogfood, or they would have noticed and fixed this in 10 minutes. At any rate, we had to go back and fold each letter into 6ths instead of 3rds, which looked very amateurish, if I do say so myself.

The truly irritating part? The exact same thing happened last year, and I had totally forgotten about it. Feh! Double Feh!

Fortune Cookies

The other day I got a menu from a new Chinese delivery place. It said in big letters, “WE DELIVERY!” But that’s not what I’m up in arms about. It’s too easy, and I make too many typos to get preachy about it.
Yes, it’s the exciting conclusion to my Asian-themed trilogy o’ rants!

Here’s my latest beef (and I don’t mean with broccoli): fortune cookies — They’re not fortunes!!!! A fortune cookie should have a prediction about what could happen in the future. I’m not asking for specific, testable prediction, a simple “You will find great happiness next year” will do. Or “If you have no love for others, you will find yourself alone.” Some sense of consequences.

Instead what you get is inane blather. “Love is it’s own reward”. It’s even that way online, try a few sample fortunes at the Fortune Cookie Generator, or an Astrological Fortune Cookie.

Resist everything but temptation.
Well begun is half done.
Faith is the answer to success
” .” — Harpo Marx

Here are two from my favorite Chinese place growing up:

Today, by civil, but don’t go out of your way to be over friendly.

Draw upa budget and figure out how to cut down on your debt.

Folks, these aren’t fortunes. Half of them don’t even make sense. That last one is a quote. You might as well start adding in Jon Stewart’s latest one-liner, or directions to the bus stop. It makes as much sense as these, and would be more in line with the lottery numbers often added. Yep, the lottery numbers, there’s another alarming twist. C’mon, who is so desparate for tips on the lottery they think that a mass-produced fortune cookie has the answer, just for them. Anyone who plays the numbers on a fortune cookie should instantly be taken out back and castrated.

I am informed by an old source that once the California lottery was in fact won by the number from fortune cookies. There were 300 winners. Lottery officials suspected fraud until the truth came out. (The truth being that they were all idiots, having to split the pot 300 ways).

Someone actually sent my wife a fortune cookie in the mail that said “You are the life of any party”. That’s not a fortune! (Although it probably does apply to her a lot more than me.)