W: the scapegoat for all of America’s violent impulses

I attended a dinner party this week in which all of the other guests were foreigners, coming from Mexico, Taiwan, and Colombia.  It was the night of the last presidential debate and the topic of the election came up.  All of the foreign guests espoused great hatred for George W. and blamed the Republicans in general and W specifically for all the violence perpetrated by the U.S.  These were all young grad students and post-docs and apparently America’s long history of violence hasn’t registered with them nor the fact that much if not most of that violence was authored by presidents from the Democratic Party.  I pointed out that the Japanese had killed fewer Americans in their attack on Pearl Harbor than died on September 11, 2001.  Yet Roosevelt, a Democrat, had killed millions of Japanese in retaliation rather than negotiate a settlement.  Kennedy started America’s Vietnam War, which his Democratic successor Johnson escalated.  Jimmy Carter, a famously wimpy Democrat, articulated the Carter Doctrine that any threat to control of Mideast oil supplies would be met with American military force then backed that up by funding a proxy army in Afghanistan against the Russians.  It would seem that W. and the Republicans have no monopoly on aggression in foreign lands and yet somehow the American people get a free ride.  If we can say “we didn’t vote for W” we are considered good citizens of the world.  George W. Bush attracts all of the hatred.

Maybe we should take advantage of the fact that we have our scapegoat in place.  We can make a list of all of the countries that we need to invade, install puppet governments in, or steal their natural resources.  If W. loses the election we go on a big military spree until mid-January and then Kerry can come in and say “We had nothing to do with the fact that Bush kicked your asses but sadly the U.S. government never apologizes for anything or returns any loot.”

[I did catch up by skimming the transcipt of the debate later.  My favorite thing that was said was from Bush:  “the actual user of health care is not the purchaser of health care.”  This is what distinguishes a visit to a hospital emergency room from a visit to McDonald’s.  Even if you don’t have health insurance and are going to be reamed out of $2000 for a simple X-ray the experience is pure Third World.  As far as the staff is concerned you are not their customer.  Insurance companies, Medicare, and Medicaid are the customers.  If an executive from Blue Cross showed up at the hospital she would not be kept in a waiting room overflowing with the sickest most contagious SARS-ridden people in the metropolitan area.  If nobody had health insurance hospitals and doctors would start to pay more attention to the patient experience.]

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How to choose a test pilot

The October 4, 2004 New Yorker magazine carries an interesting article by Ian Parker about Burt Rutan and SpaceShipOne, which won the X-Prize.  Rutan discusses his concern during the first flight that his friend Mike Melvill, 63, might have been killed.

“I’d have lost a friend.  You could say, ‘I should pick a pilot who I’m less friendly with, a guy who’s a stranger to me and just working for me, so if he gets killed…'”  [Rutan] smiled.  “You could say, ‘Let’s have a lawyer fly it'”–a pause–“‘or a liberal.'”

Rutan is quite expansive on the uselessness of the federal government, especially as evidenced by the spectacle of NASA’s inefficiency.  Ian Parker inserts some balance by noting that Rutan operates from the Mojave airport, a recent recipient of $3.9 million from the FAA to improve taxiways.

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