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The Truth (With Jokes) : Al Franken

04/21/06

  11:57:24 pm, by Nimble   , 988 words  
Categories: Reviews, Books, Politics

The Truth (With Jokes) : Al Franken

Link: http://www.amazon.ca/exec/obidos/ASIN/0452287677/thecerealkill-20

This is a much angrier, more serious book, only lightly seasoned with humour this time around. There's not so much focus on the right-wing hacks this time, though they are still present, but this focuses more on the upper echelons of the US government.

He's obviously in a bit of shock that George Junior managed to get re-elected. He's in more of a shock that just because George "actually" got elected this time, that not only is George claiming that gives him a "mandate", but that this is being parrotted not only by the usual suspects, but by the mainstream media as well.

This book covers quite a few things in the current and recent political landscape of the present-day leadership. There's a fairly long treatment of DeLay and Abramoff, including scandals and scandalous behaviour in relation to Saipan, the Terry Schiavo case (you can have fun with the nitpickers over at frankenlies.com on why Tom DeLay "pulling the plug" on his own father wasn't hypocrisy), ripping off/having irregular dealings with native casinos (Abramoff and Scanlon).

There's a great deal near the front of the book on the "fears, smears and queers" tactics that seem to come dramatically to a head before elections, like the strangely-raised orange alerts that subsided after the election. Keeping people on their toes, and deathly afraid for their lives.

Instead of "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself" (though that was FDR in the era of the Depression), we have fear used and perpetuated for political gain.

The "smears" include not just the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth scam, but many a dirty trick perpetuated by Rove going years back.

The "queers" includes the whole gay marriage issue, fake gay "protestors", and how it didn't help as much as George must have thought it might.

Social Security figures pretty large in here. It's a little hard to fathom why Bush so desperately pushes for privatization. The administration dances around looking for excuses to scrap it. It's "going to become insolvent", or "you'll get a better rate of return" or my favourite, "the trust is worthless". From the White Houses' pages:

There is no "trust fund," just IOUs that I saw firsthand, that future generations will pay -- will pay for either in higher taxes, or reduced benefits, or cuts to other critical government programs.

The office here in Parkersburg stores those IOUs. They're stacked in a filing cabinet. Imagine -- the retirement security for future generations is sitting in a filing cabinet. It's time to strengthen and modernize Social Security for future generations with growing assets that you can control, that you call your own -- assets that the government cannot take away. (Applause.)

These worthless IOUs are, purportedly, T-bills. On the Social Security Trust Fund Site, the investments (go to the Investment Data pages and submit some simple queries) are listed as 'bonds'.

Much of the end of the book is dedicated to the bungling of and war profiteering in the Iraq War. You can leave aside all the reasons to go to Iraq in the first place - and just take a look at how they dealt with and didn't plan for it. It's not that there was no post-war planning, it just wasn't listened to.

With planning this poor, you really get the sense that they were actually expecting to be treated as liberators, and have nothing to do once they got there. Just a $1.7 billion price tag, paid for by seized assets and the like in Iraq, and a grateful populace. The reality, of course, ended up being quite different. What was it about the President's little entourage that discouraged any planning or sage advice? Well, not just on Iraq... on anything.

(I do wonder to myself on occasion whether they believe they can shape reality, somewhat like a high operating thetan in Scientology :) )

Besides the inadequate preparation, too few troops, too little equipment, no commitment to preventing post-invasion chaos and looting, there was Bremer's civil servant and army purging, putting some 500,000 Iraqis (some with guns) out of work. There was the torture, trusting in Chalabi, the ousting of experienced contractors and the willful avoidance of Iraqi goods and services in favour of highly inexperienced people and no-bid contracts with the likes of Halliburton and Custer Battles.

One thing I admire about Franken is how much he cares about the troops. While critical of the war, he remains a staunch supporter of the troops themselves, and does more than his fair share of USO tours (including lonely Kosovo). If he does pick up the political banner, I'm sure some of them will miss the visit.

There are a couple of cutesy things in the book, like the anonymous foreword writer, and especially the fantasy-esque (but which hopefully contains things that will become true) "letter to his grandchildren" set some years after the Bush legacy is behind us.

Some bias in this book? You bet. However, if history is a guide, even though a few of the examples will end up turning out to be more nuanced, it's relatively free of the equivocating, strawmen, ad hominems, ends-justify-the-means and downright lies I typically encounter on the other side of the individual topic debates.

I'm for small but effective government that takes responsibility for its actions, keeps the common good in mind, tries to keep debt and corruption down, goes to war as a last resort, but supports its troops when it does and... I never thought I'd have to specify this... doesn't fabricate most of its speeches and talking points out of whole cloth.

By those criteria, this is one of the worst US administrations ever. Like a horrible job or an abusive spouse, I wonder what realizations will come to the fore when (hopefully not 'if') this administration's (including any of their pretenders to the throne) time has passed.

Oh yes, and by the way, I recommend the book :)

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