Commentary on the outgoing President

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Commentary on the outgoing President

Postby kidjan on January 19th, 2009, 1:25 pm 

I read a few articles covering Bush's presidency, but one in particular that I enjoyed was in The Economist: George Bush's Legacy

One part of the article that was interesting was:

The Economist wrote:The costs of ambition

The neoconservatives who had such influence over Mr Bush argued that unintended consequences were usually more important than the intended ones. The Bush presidency has proved them right in this, if in little else.

A president who laboured to produce Republican hegemony ended up dramatically weakening the Republican Party. The Democratic Party is now in a more powerful position than it has been at any time since the second world war. In the Senate, the Democrats have a majority of 59 seats to 41 (including two independents who caucus with the Democrats); in the House, they hold 256 seats to the Republicans’ 178. Americans who came of age during the Bush years identify with the Democrats by the largest majority recorded for any age cohort since the second world war.

A president who believed that America’s global supremacy was guaranteed by America’s unrivalled military power ended up demonstrating the limits of both. Many of America’s closest allies in Europe refused to co-operate with the Iraq war. Many of America’s rivals used America’s travails in Iraq to extend their power: Iran is more powerful than it was in 2000, and closer to acquiring a nuclear bomb; Russia and China have extended their web of alliances and strengthened their regional influence. Mr Bush’s recalibration of his policies in his second term suggests that even he recognises that America’s loss of soft power has cost it dear.

The American military machine is under intense strain. The demands of tackling the Iraq insurgency have forced America to short-change Afghanistan. Deployments have grown longer and redeployments more frequent. Recruitment standards are going down. The neoconservative dream of a muscle-bound America knocking down the “axis of evil” and planting democracies from North Korea to Iran looks, more than ever, like an overheated fantasy cooked up in a think-tank.


There's actually a name for that think tank...
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Postby Forest_Dump on January 19th, 2009, 1:47 pm 

I have to admit that the liberal side of me almost takes pity on Bush. If I were in his shoes, looking back at his career and legacy must feel kind of grim right about now. I remember a quote that said W read history books like they were a user's manual. It sounds like he will be in those history books now but not the way he wanted.
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Postby Paul Anthony on January 25th, 2009, 5:20 pm 

I've always had a hard time taking the man seriously. His speeches were better suited as a stand-up comedian's routine than as that of a world leader.

These are real quotes from his speeches:

"For NASA, space is still a high priority."
"If you say you're going to do something and don't do it, that's trustworthiness."
"One word sums up probably the responsibility of any Governor, and that one word is "to be prepared"."
"Justice ought to be fair."
"A low voter turnout is an indication of fewer people going to the polls."
"If the terriers and bariffs are torn down, this economy will grow."
"Quite frankly, teachers are the only profession that teach our children."
"Reading is the basics for all learning."
"We are ready for any unforeseen event that may or may not occur."
"Rarely is the question asked: Is our children learning?"
"September the 4th, 2001, I stood in the ruins of the Twin Towers. It's a day I will never forget."
"It isn't pollution that's harming the environment. It's the impurities in our air and water that are doing it."
"I have opinions of my own -strong opinionsbut I don't always agree with them."
"If we don't succeed, we run the risk of failure."
"When the governor calls, I answer his phone."
"For every fatal shooting, there were roughly three non-fatal shootings. And, folks, this is unacceptable in America. It's just unacceptable. And we're going to do something about it."
"(The Taliban) have no disregard for human life"
"I can press when there needs to be pressed; I can hold hands when there needs to be... hold hands."
"The problem with the French is that they don't have a word for entrepreneur."
"Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we."
"It's a time of sorrow and sadness when we lose a loss of life."
"I have made good judgments in the past. I have made good judgments in the future."
"I'm honoured to shake the hand of a brave Iraqi citizen who had his hand cut off by Saddam Hussein."
"The vast majority of our imports come from outside the country."
"I know how hard it is for you to put food on your family."
"I recently met with the finance minister of the Palestinian Authority, was very impressed by his grasp of finances."
"Will the highways on the Internet become more few?"
"We're going to have the best educated American people in the world."
"Too many good docs are getting out of the business. Too many OB/GYNs aren't able to practice their love with women all across the country."
"General, I want to thank you for your service. And I appreciate the fact that you really snatched defeat out of the jaws of those who are trying to defeat us in Iraq."
"I think we agree, the past is over."
"America stands for liberty, for the pursuit of happiness, and for the unalienalienable right of life."
"There's an old saying in Tennessee I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee that says, fool me once, shame on shame on you. Fool me you can't get fooled again."
"I don't particularly like it when people put words in my mouth, either, by the way, unless I say it."
"One of the great things about books is sometimes there are some fantastic pictures."
"You wake up at the high school level and find out that the illiteracy level of our children are appalling."
"My job is a decision-making job, and as a result, I make a lot of decisions."
"Sometimes when you study history, you get stuck in the past."
"It's in our country's interests to find those who would do harm to us and get them out of harm's way."
"We have a firm commitment to NATO, we are a part of NATO. We have a firm commitment to Europe. We are a part of Europe"
"There is distrust in Washington. I am surprised, frankly, at the amount of distrust that exists in this town. And I'm sorry it's the case, and I'll work hard to try to elevate it."
"I'm looking forward to a good night's sleep on the soil of a friend."
"It's very important for folks to understand that when there's more trade, there's more commerce."
"I think it's really important for this great state of baseball to reach out to people of all walks of life to make sure that the sport is inclusive. The best way to do it is to convince little kids how to… the beauty of playing baseball."
"One year ago today, the time for excuse-making has come to an end."
"You know, when I campaigned here in 2000, I said, I want to be a war president. No president wants to be a war president, but I am one."
"I promise you I will listen to what has been said here, even though I wasn't here."
"You teach a child to read, and he or her will be able to pass a literacy test."
"(I will) keep good relations with the Grecians."
"I am here to make an announcement that this Thursday, ticket counters and airplanes will fly out of Ronald Reagan Airport."
"We had a chance to visit with Teresa Nelson who's a parent, and a mum or a dad."
"The future will be better tomorrow."
"I know the human being and fish can coexist peacefully."
"I'm sure you can imagine it's an unimaginable honour to live here."
"I couldn't imagine somebody like Osama bin Laden understanding the joy of Hanukkah."
"I stand by all the misstatements that I've made."
"They misunderestimated me."
"I've coined new words, like 'misunderstanding'."
"Public speaking is very easy."
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Postby kidjan on January 27th, 2009, 10:40 pm 

Paul Anthony wrote:I've always had a hard time taking the man seriously. His speeches were better suited as a stand-up comedian's routine than as that of a world leader.



Certainly nobody will fondly recall George Bush's eloquence or grammar.
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Postby QuiteDragon on January 27th, 2009, 11:01 pm 

Forest_Dump wrote:I have to admit that the liberal side of me almost takes pity on Bush. If I were in his shoes, looking back at his career and legacy must feel kind of grim right about now. I remember a quote that said W read history books like they were a user's manual. It sounds like he will be in those history books now but not the way he wanted.
I have no sympathy for the man whatsoever. He accomplished just what he set out to do, hoping to reap benefits from the chaos the he, himself, sowed. Good riddance to Little (Cowboy) Boots.
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Postby Deftil on January 28th, 2009, 5:28 am 

I have some commentary on Bush:

He stunk.

However, I will miss some of the good laughs he gave me. This...
"I can press when there needs to be pressed; I can hold hands when there needs to be... hold hands."

just made me crack the hell up, for example.
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Postby Forest_Dump on January 28th, 2009, 8:26 am 

Yeah, some of those just crack me up too. In fact, I almost hate to read them because of a fear that some of them will be picked up by my own.
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Postby Celestia on January 28th, 2009, 3:50 pm 

This poem, too, has floated around the web for a while. It's composed of Bush quotes.

Make the Pie Higher
By George W. Bush

I think we all agree, the past is over.
This is still a dangerous world.
It's a world of madmen
And uncertainty
And potential mental losses.

Rarely is the question asked
Is our children learning?
Will the highways of the internet
Become more few?
How many hands have I shaked?

They misunderestimate me.
I am a pitbull on the pantleg of opportunity.
I know that the human being and the fish
Can coexist.

Families is where our nation finds hope
Where our wings take dream.
Put food on your family!
Knock down the tollbooth!
Vulcanize society!
Make the pie higher!
Make the pie higher!
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Postby QuiteDragon on January 28th, 2009, 3:56 pm 

Celestia wrote:This poem, too...

Make the pie higher!
Make the pie higher!
That's hilarious. I, too, will miss laughing at him. It was an interesting feat of psychology to be able to mock a buffoon that held such power.
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Postby kidjan on January 28th, 2009, 8:15 pm 

QuiteDragon wrote:Good riddance to Little (Cowboy) Boots.


It's more accurate without the (Cowboy), honestly. He wasn't born, raised or educated in Texas.
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Postby QuiteDragon on January 28th, 2009, 8:55 pm 

kidjan wrote:
QuiteDragon wrote:Good riddance to Little (Cowboy) Boots.


It's more accurate without the (Cowboy), honestly. He wasn't born, raised or educated in Texas.
I wanted to make the distinction; I'm sure I could have done better.

Um, educated?
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Postby Schmungles on January 28th, 2009, 10:39 pm 

kidjan wrote:It's more accurate without the (Cowboy), honestly. He wasn't born, raised or educated in Texas.


Regardless, he certainly embraced the figurative cowboy boots. George W. Bush and his advisers often went out of their way to make him look like an "everyman," contrasting Bush's leisure activities like driving his pickup truck around his ranch with the leisure activities of his political opponents (like John Kerry, a windsurfer and snowboarder).

While I admittedly don't know a lot about Texas politics, I also find it hard to believe that Bush could have been elected governor had he not "put on" the cowboy boots. Does anyone really think the state of Texas would have elected a man as their governor who conceded that he, basically, was a member of the Northeastern socio-economic elite?
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Postby Bill Davis on January 28th, 2009, 10:44 pm 

Do not get too overjoyed. For America still revels in its anti-intellectualism. Students in school still hide A's as if it were a Hester Prynne's scarlet letter. So called experts still consider referring to opinion articles as "research." We still have school boards questioning if the concept of natural selection should be taught in school and declaring their beliefs should be considered axioms.

Ignorance is still "bliss" and we have a long way to go to draw us humans out of the intoxication of this condition.
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Postby QuiteDragon on January 28th, 2009, 11:51 pm 

Bill Davis wrote:Students in school still hide A's as if it were a Hester Prynne's scarlet letter.
Nicely turned phrase.
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Postby kidjan on January 29th, 2009, 7:41 pm 

QuiteDragon wrote:
kidjan wrote:
QuiteDragon wrote:Good riddance to Little (Cowboy) Boots.


It's more accurate without the (Cowboy), honestly. He wasn't born, raised or educated in Texas.
I wanted to make the distinction; I'm sure I could have done better.

Um, educated?


Yes, educated:

Wikipedia wrote:As a child, Bush was not accepted for admission by St. John's School in Houston, Texas, a prestigious private school.[17] Instead, he attended The Kinkaid School, the private school from which St. John's had broken away.[17][18]

Bush attended Phillips Academy, an all-boys private high school in Andover, Massachusetts, where he played baseball and during his senior year was the head cheerleader.[19][20] Bush attended Yale University from 1964 to 1968, receiving a Bachelor's degree in history in 1968.[21] As a college senior, Bush became a member of the secretive Skull and Bones society.[22] He characterized himself as an average student.[23]

In 1970, Bush applied to, but was not accepted into, the University of Texas School of Law.[24] Beginning in the fall of 1973, Bush attended Harvard University, where he earned an MBA.[25]


That said, it appears I am incorrect about one thing: part of his early life and education was in Texas.

My intent with this post really isn't to reflect on Bush's poor public speaking skills and intelligence (attacking either basically amounts to an ad hominem, since neither technically have much to do with his policies, actions or beliefs), but rather to discuss what his legacy will really amount to.
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Postby QuiteDragon on January 29th, 2009, 8:18 pm 

kidjan wrote:My intent with this post really isn't to reflect on Bush's poor public speaking skills and intelligence (attacking either basically amounts to an ad hominem, since neither technically have much to do with his policies, actions or beliefs), but rather to discuss what his legacy will really amount to.
Frankly, I find that making fun of the man's lack of qualifications for the job (and I do think public speaking an important skill and intelligence essential for a nation's leader) is one of the best ways to soften the realization of what his actions and policies might very well mean to the American people and the species as a whole.
    How much time does a sapient species have to achieve a stable and effective civilization that can endure to face the significant challenges that will likely come?
    How many resources can we waste before we do not have enough to build a truly technical society?
    How many lives can be afforded who might have found answers we will need to survive and succeed?
    How much longer can we act as brutes before we lose our chance to be something more than brutes and savages?

Greed, folly, wasters of life and treasure have plagued us for too long. GWB was just one more, on a grand scale; that is his legacy. I just hope he wasn't one too many.
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Postby kidjan on January 29th, 2009, 8:38 pm 

QuiteDragon wrote:Frankly, I find that making fun of the man's lack of qualifications for the job (and I do think public speaking an important skill and intelligence essential for a nation's leader) is one of the best ways to soften the realization of what his actions and policies might very well mean to the American people and the species as a whole.


...either that, or it's a way to not even bother realizing what his "actions and policies might very well mean to the American people." That's the whole point of an ad hominem:

Wikipedia wrote:An ad hominem argument, also known as argumentum ad hominem (Latin: "argument to the man", "argument against the man") consists of replying to an argument or factual claim by attacking or appealing to a characteristic or belief of the source making the argument or claim, rather than by addressing the substance of the argument or producing evidence against the claim. The process of proving or disproving the claim is thereby subverted, and the argumentum ad hominem works to change the subject.


There isn't any point in discussing a policy put forth by George Bush if we operate under the pretense that he is A) a bad speaker and B) a moron, because that pretense excludes him from putting forth a reasonable policy.

In fact, this thread would essentially become irrelevant. We can write off Bush as an idiot, and by simple deduction all policies instated by him are thus idiotic. I think this is a dangerous line of reasoning because it denies any nuanced interpretation of his presidency.

I think it is vitally important that people understand his policies and actions. And "softening" it is only a way for people to misunderstand just how serious some of his decisions in office actually were.
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Postby QuiteDragon on January 29th, 2009, 10:50 pm 

kidjan wrote:
QuiteDragon wrote:Frankly, I find that making fun of the man's lack of qualifications for the job (and I do think public speaking an important skill and intelligence essential for a nation's leader) is one of the best ways to soften the realization of what his actions and policies might very well mean to the American people and the species as a whole.


...either that, or it's a way to not even bother realizing what his "actions and policies might very well mean to the American people."
Fortunately, I suspect it is possible to both find humor in a man's incompetence and to discuss his actions in a meaningful fashion.

That's the whole point of an ad hominem...

There isn't any point in discussing a policy put forth by George Bush if we operate under the pretense that he is A) a bad speaker and B) a moron, because that pretense excludes him from putting forth a reasonable policy.
An ad hominem attack is not a fallacy if the quality (or qualities) disparaged is (are) relevant to the argument. And, since it can be argued that
    a. the ability to speak in an intelligible and diplomatic fashion is very important to a leader, saying that a president is a bad speaker is quite relevant to what he was able to accomplish in office and therefore relevant to his legacy; and,
    b. that the intelligence of a man is directly related to his ability to preform all sorts of functions, never mind decide the fate thousands or millions, it is quite relevant to call into question the intelligence of a president when his actions and policies are being discussed; and,
    c. I am in no way pretending that Bush was a bad speaker. He was; and,
    d. I am not pretending that Bush was a moron (I would have to check, but I am pretty sure I didn't use that word), but, for my money, he shows all the outward signs of having some serious impediments to clear and rational thought; therefore:
    e. The fact that I hold personal belief about Bush does not mean that there is no point in discussing a policy of his administration. (Has one even been brought up for discussion, yet, in this thread? I don't believe you posted about one, either, though I will have to check. Of course you did, in the OP. How brash and careless of me. Sorry) Indeed, it does not even prevent me from agreeing with his policies on occasion. http://www.ranwithscissors.net/?cat=11&paged=5
We can write off Bush as an idiot
Nobody with that much power should be "[written] off" regardless of his mental capacities or lack thereof.

and by simple deduction all policies instated by him are thus idiotic.
Now that is an example of an ad hominem fallacy. Except, I didn't claim it.

I think it is vitally important that people understand his policies and actions.
I can't disagree with that. Would have been more important to do so before he started bombing Iraq, or was elected for a second term.

And "softening" it is only a way for people to misunderstand just how serious some of his decisions in office actually were.
I do not misunderstand how serious his decisions have been; I think you can get the flavor of how serious I think they were by my post above where I indicated that many of them will have a deleterious consequences for the species itself. And if I wish to laugh instead of forever cry at the damage we do to ourselves, that is my right as a human and in no way clouds my ability to see clearly. Indeed, one might say that humor has better sight on occasion than a serious mien. I am sure Swift, Twain, and Colbert would concur.
Last edited by QuiteDragon on January 30th, 2009, 2:15 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby QuiteDragon on January 30th, 2009, 2:11 am 

Several items come readily to mind when I contemplate what the era of George Walker Bush has done for us a nation. Almost all of these come under the heading of the setbacks that the cause of democracy have taken at his hands:

Pursuing the cause of the unitary executive. The U.S. is unique insomuch as it, among those nations that have firmly set their feet upon the path of granting historically unheard of freedoms to its citizens, still allows for a strong executive as a balance to the cumbersome and plodding Congressional branch. Mr. Bush, as an advocate extreme for some of his party's most deeply held beliefs, has raised the ante and pushed the balance of power far enough towards the executive that it may severely handicap the ideal of a government by, for, and of the people themselves.

Attempting to undermine that other rock of democracy, habeus corpus. Any government that will try to abandon indefinitely the principle of the right of a person to challenge his incarceration, abandons the ideal of freedom.

The Bush Doctrine. All I need is the fear that I am in danger in order to justify an attack up a non-aggressive country. Pre-emptive war is terrorism. Period.

Torture is okay, if the stakes are high enough.

Most of these will take decades, at least, to ameliorate. If they can be corrected at all.


On the plus side:

A pretty thorough discrediting of the Hobbesian theory of peace through enforced hegemony.
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Postby kidjan on February 3rd, 2009, 5:06 pm 

QuiteDragon wrote:An ad hominem attack is not a fallacy if the quality (or qualities) disparaged is (are) relevant to the argument.


I think there may be some confusion here.
  1. An ad hominem is a fallacy by definition; there is no such thing as an ad hom that is not a logical fallacy. It is a logical fallacy because it is an attack on the argument maker instead of the argument.
  2. The whole point is that the ad hominem becomes the substitute for the actual argument (e.g. "Bush is a bad public speaker; clearly someone with his linguistic capabilities must be incapable of crafting a feasible policy"--by discrediting Bush's personal characteristics, we attempt to discredit his ideas, which is an ad hom) . And a lot of the posts in this thread focus on attacking Bush's credibility--not his arguments--which, in my opinion, seriously diminishes the ethos of the person putting forth the argument and is damaging to substantive debate.

I do appreciate your subsequent post which mentions specific policies you disagree with, but the postings prior to that are clearly ad hom. And I should add that I'm definitely not leveling this accusation solely against you; It's more a general observation I've had that people would rather discredit Bush based on his speech habits and perceived intelligence than discuss the details of his policies and ideologies.
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Postby kidjan on February 3rd, 2009, 5:39 pm 

For the sake of debate,

QuiteDragon wrote:Pursuing the cause of the unitary executive.


I don't know that I'd attribute this solely to George Bush, and some academics argue (example) that Bush is merely behaving in a manner that is consistent with the assault on the executive following Watergate:

Christopher S. Kelley, Ph.D. wrote:...In this paper, I will argue that the current Bush administration has simply formalized a process that really began with the Reagan administration and is a result of the assault on the presidency following Watergate and the fear of an “imperial presidency."

...I will focus on the key pieces of the unitary “puzzle” that were put in place by the Reagan, Bush (I), and Clinton presidencies which have aided the current Bush administration immensely.


It's hard to attribute unitary executive theory solely to Bush, especially considering the circumstances surrounding his presidency (i.e. questions of legitimacy in the 2000 election, events of 9/11, etc.) so I don't think it's completely fair to discredit the contributions of previous administrations and omit the context of events that occurred during the Bush presidency.

A pretty thorough discrediting of the Hobbesian theory of peace through enforced hegemony.


I think that's pretty debatable:

Wikipedia wrote:To escape this state of war, men in the state of nature accede to a social contract and establish a civil society. According to Hobbes, society is a population beneath a sovereign authority, to whom all individuals in that society (kidjan: emphasis mine) cede their natural rights for the sake of protection. Any abuses of power by this authority are to be accepted as the price of peace. However, he also states that in severe cases of abuse, rebellion is expected. In particular, the doctrine of separation of powers is rejected:[10] the sovereign must control civil, military, judicial and ecclesiastical powers.


People outside of the U.S. (i.e. all individuals outside our society, who have not ceded their natural rights to our authority) are not protected, and it's pretty clear that Americans have ceded many "natural rights" for the sake of protection in the last eight years, and most arguments in favor of Bush policies justify extraordinary executive power as the accepted price of peace.
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Postby QuiteDragon on February 3rd, 2009, 6:20 pm 

kidjan wrote:
QuiteDragon wrote:An ad hominem attack is not a fallacy if the quality (or qualities) disparaged is (are) relevant to the argument.


I think there may be some confusion here.
There is no confusion at all on my part. You are simply mistaken. The heart of an ad hominem fallacy is relevancy, period. If I say that one of the reasons Bush is a poor president is because he is virtually inarticulate at times (his poor speaking abilities go further than that, but that is sufficient for the instant purpose) and that it is true that the ability of a president to perform his duties well is, at least in part, dependent upon his ability to communicate effectively, then to say that Bush's performance as president is diminished due to his poor speaking is both a true statement and an ad hominem, but not a fallacy. If the argument is a man's performance, than nothing is more germane to the argument than the man's ability to perform.

For instance, ad hominem is one of the most frequently misidentified fallacies, probably because it is one of the best known ones. Many people seem to think that any personal criticism, attack, or insult counts as an ad hominem fallacy. Moreover, in some contexts the phrase "ad hominem" may refer to an ethical lapse, rather than a logical mistake, as it may be a violation of debate etiquette to engage in personalities. So, in addition to ignorance, there is also the possibility of equivocation on the meaning of "ad hominem".

For instance, the charge of "ad hominem" is often raised during American political campaigns, but is seldom logically warranted. We vote for, elect, and are governed by politicians, not platforms; in fact, political platforms are primarily symbolic and seldom enacted. So, personal criticisms are logically relevant to deciding who to vote for. Of course, such criticisms may be logically relevant but factually mistaken, or wrong in some other non-logical way.
From: http://www.fallacyfiles.org/adhomine.html
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Postby QuiteDragon on February 3rd, 2009, 6:29 pm 

kidjan wrote:And I should add that I'm definitely not leveling this accusation solely against you; It's more a general observation I've had that people would rather discredit Bush based on his speech habits and perceived intelligence than discuss the details of his policies and ideologies.
I am well aware that you meant nothing personal and that you chose me to represent persons that were engaged in trashing our ex. And, I can't say as I blame you for wanting to engage in substantive debate, rather than blowing raspberries at the man. I want to do both. Partly, it is a matter of whistling past the graveyard: I am glad that s.o.b. is out of office without doing more damage. Partly, it is a matter of Bush's shortcomings making such an easy target. Partly, it is a matter of trying to believe that we can't be so dumb as to have someone like that as our leader... again.
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Postby QuiteDragon on February 4th, 2009, 9:53 pm 

kidjan wrote:
QuiteDragon wrote:Pursuing the cause of the unitary executive.


I don't know that I'd attribute this solely to George Bush, and some academics argue... It's hard to attribute unitary executive theory solely to Bush, especially considering the circumstances surrounding his presidency (i.e. questions of legitimacy in the 2000 election, events of 9/11, etc.) so I don't think it's completely fair to discredit the contributions of previous administrations and omit the context of events that occurred during the Bush presidency.
I have never been under any illusion that this was the brain child of the Bush administration; indeed, I believe I said that Mr. Bush et al were merely pursuing a policy of the party. Though I have nothing to back up the claim, I would wager that the Republican fascination with the theory of the unitary executive is likely due to seeing it as an effective tool to be used in reducing the size of the federal government to something more acceptable. Certainly this was near to the heart of President Reagan ("..government is the problem."), so it would make sense to try to increase executive power towards effecting such an end.

No, I was merely saying that Mr. Bush was more assiduous in its application than his predecessors (of either persuasion) . Certainly it is unlikely that an executive of any party would do much to "give back" power accrued to the office regardless of political view. My point was that this process (of unbalancing the branches of government, especially in the favor of the executive) is, at least in principle, to the detriment of democracy.

A pretty thorough discrediting of the Hobbesian theory of peace through enforced hegemony.


I think that's pretty debatable...
I think it is eminently debatable, despite that fact that I said it in large part to tweak you (I have always loved your avatar, by the way). I do think it to be germane to the topic, though.

People outside of the U.S. (i.e. all individuals outside our society, who have not ceded their natural rights to our authority) are not protected, and it's pretty clear that Americans have ceded many "natural rights" for the sake of protection in the last eight years, and most arguments in favor of Bush policies justify extraordinary executive power as the accepted price of peace.
This is the fun part (going out on limb and sawing it off, I mean):
  • What is the manner of a citizen's "ceding" their natural rights to the state? Are they really ceded, or just preempted, then the fait accompli latterly acceded to in tacit fashion.
  • This ceding of natural rights for the protection of sovereign (hereinafter referred to as "Daddy" ;-) can be assumed to be equivalent no matter the size of the political group that the individual or group of individuals belong to (hereinafter referred to as "Biatches").
  • In view of the above, it can be seen that the Hobbsian theory translates equally well in a global environment, with one superpower asserting peace through hegemony.Though Hobbes may not have specifically intended such a thing, it is arguably applicable.
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Postby kidjan on February 5th, 2009, 4:06 pm 

QuiteDragon wrote:I am glad that s.o.b. is out of office without doing more damage.


Although I enjoy playing devil's advocate, in truth I feel the same way. I don't know that I can think of a president who has been more divisive and damaging in recent history.
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Postby kidjan on February 5th, 2009, 4:21 pm 

QuiteDragon wrote:What is the manner of a citizen's "ceding" their natural rights to the state? Are they really ceded, or just preempted, then the fait accompli latterly acceded to in tacit fashion.


It's a fair question, although I would point out that the mechanism by which natural rights were ceded isn't as important as the fact that natural rights were ceded.

Part of this could be a semantic issue with Hobbes' theory; technically anyone born in the United States (or in many respects, anyone living in the United States), has implicitly ceded their natural rights in exchange for security, opportunity, stability, etc. I think the idea that one endures restriction for the sake of protection and opportunity is typically an implicit agreement, and maybe Hobbes' definition is a bit too literal. (i.e. there's no contract on file where I explicitly ceded my natural rights, but that doesn't change the fact that those rights have been ceded. And I would generally argue that I still got a good deal, but the exchange is so invisible that I don't know how much people really acknowledge that it even exists)

In business speak, everyone born/living in the U.S. automatically "opts in" to this agreement. Someone can opt-out by A) leaving or B) starting a revolution.

This ceding of natural rights for the protection of sovereign (hereinafter referred to as "Daddy" ;-) can be assumed to be equivalent no matter the size of the political group that the individual or group of individuals belong to (hereinafter referred to as "Biatches").
...In view of the above, it can be seen that the Hobbsian theory translates equally well in a global environment, with one superpower asserting peace through hegemony.Though Hobbes may not have specifically intended such a thing, it is arguably applicable.


I'm not following you here.
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Postby kidjan on February 5th, 2009, 4:27 pm 

QuiteDragon wrote:No, I was merely saying that Mr. Bush was more assiduous in its application than his predecessors (of either persuasion) . Certainly it is unlikely that an executive of any party would do much to "give back" power accrued to the office regardless of political view. My point was that this process (of unbalancing the branches of government, especially in the favor of the executive) is, at least in principle, to the detriment of democracy.


OK, but the one other President who comes to mind when I think about pushing the envelope w/r/t executive powers is Lincoln. And most (sane) people would argue that Lincoln's actions were justified; most reasonable people see his infractions of executive power to be sadly necessary in a time of war.

So, my question is: what makes the Bush administration different? Both administrations were facing huge, massive issues that involved national security, so one could argue that their extraordinary executive power was necessary.

I think the onus is on us to explain why Bush's tenure constitutes heinous unitary executive power grabbing while Lincoln is credited with saving the Union.
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Postby Forest_Dump on February 5th, 2009, 6:18 pm 

Of course the first question with regards to some of the above is what "natural rights"? Where did we get these from? I suppose a deity can give natural rights but if you don't believe in that one, then it is up to government to give natural rights. And if government can give them then there is no reason why the government can't also take them away.
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Postby QuiteDragon on February 5th, 2009, 7:12 pm 

Forest_Dump wrote:Of course the first question with regards to some of the above is what "natural rights"? Where did we get these from? I suppose a deity can give natural rights but if you don't believe in that one, then it is up to government to give natural rights. And if government can give them then there is no reason why the government can't also take them away.
"Natural Rights" was meant to imply any rights that a person could take and hold, i.e. the right to life if he could keep someone from killing him; the right to free choice, if he could attain something and none could stop him; freedom to come and go unhindered; and so forth. I am not certain it is wholly relevant from where the rights spring, except to say that it was not a government that granted them. They are ceded to a sovereign by individuals for the purpose of gaining certain protections and benefits of living in a larger community. Certainly Hobbes maintained that it was incumbent upon individuals to reassert their rights in certain circumstances, thereby withdrawing them from their sovereign.
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Postby kidjan on February 6th, 2009, 3:17 am 

Forest_Dump wrote:Of course the first question with regards to some of the above is what "natural rights"? Where did we get these from? I suppose a deity can give natural rights but if you don't believe in that one, then it is up to government to give natural rights. And if government can give them then there is no reason why the government can't also take them away.


If we're talking about Hobbes' notion of Natural Rights, then I don't think there's quite so much ambiguity:

Wikipedia wrote:Hobbes' conception of natural rights extended from his conception of man in a "state of nature". Thus he argued that the essential natural (human) right was "to use his own power, as he will himself, for the preservation of his own Nature; that is to say, of his own Life; and consequently, of doing any thing, which in his own judgement, and Reason, he shall conceive to be the aptest means thereunto." (Leviathan. 1,XIV)

...Hobbes sharply distinguished this natural "liberty", from natural "laws" (obligations), described generally as "a precept, or general rule, found out by reason, by which a man is forbidden to do, that, which is destructive of life, or taketh away the means of preserving life; and to omit, that, by which he thinketh it may best be preserved."

In his natural state, according to Hobbes, man's life consisted entirely of liberties and not at all of laws - "It followeth, that in such a condition, every man has the right to every thing; even to one another's body. And therefore, as long as this natural Right of every man to every thing endureth, there can be no security to any man... of living out the time, which Nature ordinarily allow men to live."

...

Hobbes objected to the attempt to derive rights from "natural law," arguing that law ("lex") and right ("jus") though often confused, signify opposites, with law referring to obligations, while rights refer to the absence of obligations. Since by our (human) nature, we seek to maximize our well being, rights are prior to law, natural or institutional, and people will not follow the laws of nature without first being subjected to a sovereign power, without which all ideas of right and wrong are rendered insignificant - "Therefore before the names of Just and Unjust can have place, there must be some coercive Power, to compel men equally to the performance of their Covenants..., to make good that Propriety, which by mutual contract men acquire, in recompense of the universal Right they abandon: and such power there is none before the erection of the Commonwealth." (Leviathan. 1, XV) This marked an important departure from medieval natural law theories which gave precedence to obligations over rights. However, some thinkers such as Leo Strauss, maintained that Hobbes kept the primacy of natural law or moral obligation over natural rights, and thus did not fully break with medieval thought.


So I'd say not only does Hobbes go out of his way to define "natural rights" in a very specific way, but I think he also had a very different notion of what the distinction between rights and laws actually was (whether it's better or not is open for debate, but it's a pretty substantial distinction).

In any event, I don't find the last eight years to be something that refutes Hobbes' theories; if anything, I think they fit pretty well.
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