Tuesday, January 29, 2008

State of Doublespeak

From the Guardian, this morning.

Ian Williams
In the annals of doublespeak there can have been few such impressive achievements as George Bush's final state of the union address. It was a bit like listening to the emperor Honorius give his self-congratulatory state of the empire speech around 410 - just before Alaric had his Roman holiday.

"Let us complete an international agreement that has the potential to slow, stop, and eventually reverse the growth of greenhouse gases," says the president who has tried to sabotage the already inadequate Kyoto protocol and whose minions have sedulously blacked out any references to global warming from scientific documents.

For all these years, the president has fiddled while the globe heated up - and now he has suddenly become green-friendly, talking of renewable clean energy. But the only tangible thing he has done about conservation is to more than double oil prices since taking office by starting and threatening to start wars in the world's major oil-bearing regions. One supposes that Exxon-Mobil, one of the major Republican funders and opponents of Kyoto, may devote some of its quintupled profits to energy research ... but on the other hand, maybe not.

And it all comes back to Iraq. The Pentagon eats up half the US budget, and more than half the world's military spending but suddenly programmes like social security, self-financing for many decades to come from workers' contributions, are too expensive for the richest country on Earth.

After seven years of condoning pork-barrelling, the president discovers that it is a bad thing and the US economy cannot afford the "earmarks", the pet projects that Congressmen have traditionally funnelled back in their districts. They are half what they were when his party controlled the Congress, and a tiny fraction of his earmark for the war in Iraq.

And in case anyone has forgotten, Osama Bin Laden is still free and uncaught while the process of catching him makes Hunting the Snark seem like rocket science. The bulk of US forces were pulled out of Afghanistan and sent to Iraq, while rattling sabres at Iran.

"We must trust in the wisdom of our founders and empower judges who understand that the constitution means what it says," comes with chutzpah from an administration that has defended and practised torture, imprisonment without trial, wiretapping, and the right of the president to disregard any parts of any act that Congress passes which he does not like.

On one point he inadvertently speaks the truth. He says "We must trust American workers to compete with anyone in the world and empower them by opening up new markets overseas." Indeed, on current trends, they will be earning less than most of their rivals in Asia. Income levels in most other countries are rising. While he has been president, the median income for American working families has dropped by $1,100: there are millions more Americans without health insurance, and below the poverty line. And to make them even more competitive, the US dollar has almost devalued by 45% against the euro, while the trade deficit has doubled.

Motivating his sudden affection for bipartisanship is the hope that Democrat party leaders will forget the previous years of uncompromisingly dismissive diktat from the White House and its allies on Capitol Hill and go along with what he wants. And sadly, enough of them might just do that, and thwart the chances of a real change.

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