Saturday, November 08, 2008


A Look Back At BDS. A Look Forward To ODS?

First things first: not all Democrats suffer from Bush Derangement Syndrome.

I think I finally understand Bush Derangement Syndrome. And I think the psychosis that characterizes BDS may have been caused by a lack of sleep.

Last night I lay awake with visions of the Fairness Doctrine dancing in my head. I spent some time wondering what was going to happen to my taxes. I wondered how many of my students would still be happy with Obama once they had to start doing 50 hours of community service (since last night, the plan apparently is no longer mandatory). What sorts of community service would be approved, and what sorts would be denied? If you do get out the vote work for the Democratic party, will that qualify you for the $4,000 tax credit? If you do the same work for the republicans, would you be denied the $4,000? Of course, I did eventually fall asleep, but once or twice during the night I woke up, and it took me longer than usual to fall back to sleep. I couldn't get those concerns about Obama's plan out of my head.

Has this been what the past eight years have been like for those who don't agree with Bush's policies? Do they toss and turn all night, plagued by fever dreams about Bush's evil and how he is coming to get them? Did they eventually experience an insomnia-induced psychological break? Am I destined to become as hysterical as those who suffer from Bush Derangement Syndrome?

I had always considered BDS to be laughable. How could these crazy people believe these crazy things? In an effort to calm my nerves, I decided to take a closer look at the symptoms of BDS. If their worst imagined fears never came true, perhaps I could take comfort in the idea that my worst fears about Obama could be just that: fears that would never come true.

So what do those who suffer from BDS believe, anyway? I wasn't really sure where to begin, But then Jim Treacher pointed me in the right direction. Thanks to him, I found this bit from a post by Evan Handler at Huffington Post:
". . . the wars, the lies, the torture, the stacking of the courts, and the rollbacks to civil liberties; in spite of the religious fundamentalism, the fanaticism, and the utter disdain toward the population that's been expressed; in spite of the Katrina fiasco, the wire tapping, and the raping and pillaging of our economy for corporate gain . . . "

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it is perhaps representative of the beliefs held by those who suffer from Bush Derangement Syndrome. Did these fears come true? Were they accurate and factual? Were they simply partisan hysteria? Here is a quick judgment of Mr. Handler's beliefs, presenting the prosecution (BDS), the defense (Non-BDS), and the verdict:

The Wars:
BDS: Iraq was a war of aggression.
Non-BDS: Even apart from 9-11, a legitimate argument could be made that invading Iraq and toppling Saddam would be legal. At the simplest level, if you are at war with someone, and a cease fire is declared, you both stop fighting. If one side starts fighting again, the cease fire is broken, which by definition means the war is back on again. Saddam broke the cease fire. There were a number of other reasons why war with Iraq resumed. These reasons were voted on in 2002 by congress, which gave President Bush authorization to do what he did.
The Verdict: Not Guilty. The centerpiece of this argument is that this is an illegal war solely created by Bush. The fact that congress authorized it nullifies this argument. The fact that congress continues to authorize funding, especially once Democrats controlled both houses of congress, can be taken as a sign of their continued support. As a group, can Democrats honestly pin this war on Bush when they continue funding it?
Tried Separately: Afghanistan. Charges dropped. This is the "good war."

BDS: Bush wanted to trade blood for oil.
Non-BDS: If you've seen $4.00 gas, you know the blood for oil argument is foolishness. If we really went into Iraq to take their oil, gas would be cheaper. The New York Times reports that Iraq may be looking at a $79 billion surplus by the end of 2008, thanks to its oil. Wouldn't we be taking all that if we were really there for the oil?
The Verdict: Not Guilty. Obviously.

BDS: Bush wanted to make his buddies rich.
Non-BDS: It's a lot harder to wade through the web on this issue, because most information seems to be on sites like Democratic Underground, which we can expect to be hosts of the BDS virus. Off the top of my head, I seem to recall that the Pentagon already had a working relationship with Halliburton, that Halliburton was the only company big enough to take on the work, and that farming the work out to 10 or 15 different companies would be inefficient. Here's an article from Slate in 2004 claiming that even if the contracts were huge, the profits were very small.
The Verdict: Hung Jury. I'm open to arguments, but I suppose proof of the BDS claim would require showing that Halliburton got substantially richer than they would have gotten if they didn't do any work in Iraq (this seems unlikely, based on the limited evidence of the Slate article), and that any other company that did the work would have done a substantially better job. I'm not sure if this can be proven.

BDS: Bush wants to get rid of minorities/minorities are disproportionately dying in Iraq.
Non-BDS: I looked at two different sites giving racial breakdowns of fatalities in Iraq, here and here. Both were pretty close in their numbers. I also looked at this chart as one of the easier to read breakdowns of US population from 2004, and this chart of the racial breakdown of the military (though Asians are included in the "other" category) from 2001. Let's compare:
Iraq fatality totals: White 74.75% Hispanic 10.72 Black 9.49% Asian 1.85% Other 3.19
US population totals: White 66% Hispanic 14% Black 13% Asian 5% Other 2%
Military population totals: White 66% Hispanic 8% Black 20% Other 6%

Who is disproportionately represented among fatalities in Iraq? It seems reasonable to make the comparison based on military population; US totals tilt the argument even further against the BDS position. According to population percentages, we see that whites actually have the biggest beef in this argument, with a difference of 8.75% between fatality and military population representation. Hispanics have a less compelling case with a difference of 2.72%. Asians and "Other" combined have a difference of -0.96%; they are dying in a percentage smaller than their military population percentage. Blacks are 20% of the military population, but only suffer 9.49% of the fatalities, for a whopping -10.51% difference.
The Verdict: Not guilty. This one is not even open to ideological interpretation. On many issues, feelings or personal beliefs can play a large part in someone's position. This one is strictly numbers. To claim that minorities are disproportionately being killed in Iraq is so demonstrably wrong that it is hard to come to any other conclusion than that those making such claims do so out of malicious intent or willful ignorance. Which are pretty much hallmarks of BDS.

The Lies:
BDS: Bush lied us into Iraq.
Non BDS: Bush made arguments including those in the resolution noted above. Many arguments about Bush lying I believe are falsely made based on wrongly interpreting what Bush said. Here's an example: "Prior to Sept. 11, we thought two oceans would protect us," President Bush said about Iraq in an Oct. 14 speech in Michigan. "After Sept. 11, we've entered into a new era in a new war." For this writer, this is an example of President Bush claiming that Saddam Hussein is to blame for 9-11. Hmmm. What I got was that looking to the future, we could not count on oceans to protect us from those who would like to do us harm, and Saddam Hussein is one of those who would like to do us harm. I certainly do not get that Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9-11. It's just not there.
The verdict: Not Guilty. Bush didn't lie. He didn't make statements he knew were false to trick people into thinking or acting a certain way. That is actually more characteristic of BDS sufferers, who deliberately misinterpret and misconstrue Bush's statements, then use the misinterpretation as evidence of a lie.

The Torture:
BDS: Bush tortures people, torture is wrong and torture doesn't work.
Non-BDS: Taking the second proposition first, reasonable people can disagree about the rightness or wrongness of torture. Taking the third proposition, it is not apparent that torture never works. The first proposition is the most slippery, because it all depends on the definition of torture. Find a hypothetical impartial jury, and ask them to give examples of what they think torture is. I believe that the things we do, that are claimed by some to be torture, would not be on their list. Here's a definition I saw somewhere: If a person is willing to undergo some procedure, for the sake of writing about whether or not the procedure is torture, then the procedure isn't really torture. Sounds about right to me.
The Verdict: Mistrial/Case Dismissed. We use interrogation techniques that at least sometimes work, and that are not wrong in all cases. This suggests that in at least some cases, these interrogation techniques are useful and appropriate. While everyone would agree that some acts are torture, we do not all agree on whether or not some interrogation techniques are torture. Even if we were to define some interrogation techniques as torture, we have already decided that in at least some cases, these techniques are right and effective.

The Courts:
BDS: Bush is stacking the courts. We will lose our right to abortion. We will lose our right to free speech. And so on.
Non-BDS: It is the perogative of the president to nominate judges. We may presume that conservative presidents are likely to nominate judges who have a certain judicial outlook. We may also presume that a liberal president would nominate judges who have a different judicial outlook. Part of checks and balances is that the Senate has to approve these judges.
The Verdict:Mistrial/Case Dismissed. It is certainly legitimate to consider potential judicial nominees when voting for president. However, to claim that what Bush is doing with his nominees is somehow wrong or evil or against the sanctity of democracy is foolishness. Especially when those complaining will have no problem with attempts to stack the court by a liberal president.

The Civil Liberties:
BDS: Bush will eliminate everyone's civil liberties.
Non-BDS: Is there some big database listing all the people who were denied abortions the last eight years? Were the people who made a film about the assassination of President Bush prevented from making the film, or prevented from distributing the film, or put in jail? And gay marriage? Obama is against it too. And it's likely that Obama voters in California tipped the balance in favor of Prop 8, which amended the state constitution to say that marriage is only between a man and a woman.
The Verdict: Not Guilty. You don't agree with Bush's policies. We get it. But what did he deny to you, specifically, in your own life? The argument that some hypothetical person, in some hypothetical situation, that may not ever occur in the real world, might possibly somehow be harmed, possibly, in some way, maybe, is not exactly compelling.

The Religious Fundamentalism, the Fanaticism:
BDS: Bush is a religious fundamentalist. He believes he is leading the world to the rapture. He is doing bad things because he thinks God is telling him to do these things.
Non-BDS: Bush believes in God. Bush uses his moral sense, informed by his religious beliefs, to help him decide what is right or wrong.
The verdict: Mistrial/Case Dismissed. You don't agree with his policies. We get it. This does not mean that it is wrong to have religious beliefs. This does not mean that it is wrong to use your religious beliefs as a guide for your behavior. Furthermore, it seems that most of the examples of Bush being a religious fundamentalist are not based on anything Bush has said or done. Rather, they seem to be either extreme extrapolations of something Bush has said, or some wild statement or action said or done by someone who may have voted for Bush. Besides, if you argue that having a religious belief makes your views illegitimate, wouldn't you have you condemn Martin Luther King Jr? Would you call the Obama supporters who passed Prop 8 in California religious fundamentalists whose opinions should not be valued?

The Disdain Toward the Population:
BDS: Bush has disdain toward the population.
Non-BDS: What the hell does that even mean?
The Verdict: Mistrial/Case Dismissed. Seriously? Disdain?

The Hurricane Katrina:
BDS: George Bush doesn't care about black people. George Bush let people die. George Bush didn't evacuate people. George Bush made people cannibalize each other at the evacuation center.
Non-BDS: The reaction to Hurricane Katrina was not perfect. However, it can certainly be argued that city and state leadership failed spectacularly in duties they themselves had acknowledged were their responsibility. This certainly didn't make the job easier for the federal response.
The Verdict: Hung Jury. Blame cannot be assigned to any single individual. And of course it is impossible to prove that anyone else as president would have done any better, or any worse. And there is nothing to prove that racism or not caring about black people had anything to do with anything. Just because you don't like someone doesn't make them racist against you.

The Wire Tapping:
BDS: Bush is spying on Americans.
Non-BDS: The Democratically-controlled congress passed the law making Bush's actions legal.
The Verdict: Dismissed with prejudice.

The Raping and Pillaging of Our Economy for Corporate Gain:
BDS: Bush and his evil cronies are raping the economy.
Non-BDS: Could you be more specific?
The Verdict: Case Dismissed. Lack of Evidence.

So the hysterical fears of BDS sufferers never materialized.

What are some concerns about an Obama presidency, and can we tell if they are legitimate concerns or hysterical fears? There does seem to be an idea floating around that Obama was all about getting elected, and now that he's been elected, he'll be much less radical than all of his statements and associations would lead us to believe. I guess we can only really know by waiting for events to unfold. If he signs the Fairness Doctrine, we'll know that that was a legitimate concern, and not a hysterical fear. Somehow, that's not very satisfying.

Here are a few things to worry about in an Obama presidency:

Fairness Doctrine

Right to own guns

Higher taxes

Employee Free Choice Act

Foreign policy beliefs will unintentionally encourage attacks against us, the west, and Israel

Feel free to add more in the comments.
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